Sunday, August 03, 2014

Nighthawk chick in the corn field


This year, as we started pollinating, there were four nighthawks flying above our second planting.  I spooked the female when I was pulling outcrosses in the doubled haploids.  I kept an eye out for their nest, but didn't find it right away.  One of the guys working with me found one of the eggs up near the front, right near the path between rows.  One egg was smashed, by some ignorant pollinator probably.  There was no nest, no pile of feathers or arrangement to identify the nest, just the camouflaged egg and mother.  I put flagging tape around those rows to keep people from stepping on the egg.  The mother would be there in the morning and flew nervously overhead as we worked in the corn.  The crew leader told the kids that if they stepped on any eggs or chicks they were fired.  Kidding, kind of. 



After 21 days, the chick hatched!  This totally made my day. We gathered the kids around and each took a peek at the tiny fluffball as it stumbled around the corn stubble.  It must have hatched early Saturday morning, and was already walking around by 7:30 AM.  We widened the protected area and everyone was very careful to not step on the tiny chick.  


For perspective, the shootcap - the white paper in the picture, is two inches wide.  The egg was small and the chick was a little more than an inch long.  


The mother was not buzzing us like normal - they make a whirring, almost mechanical sound when they dive, but as we were pulling out of the field around lunchtime I saw her circling the field. 

2 comments:

Brenda in DC said...

How do they survive with no protection of a nest and down on the ground?

Brian Gardunia said...

I guess they rely on camouflage and fast growth. The little chick was mobile almost immediately And according to what I read online they can fly in less than three weeks.