Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Young WEGUs excitedly perform "I can fly!" dance!

This particular gull is known to us as Beezel Jr., named in honor of one of BourbonHawk's ex boyfriends. Beezel Sr. scored a 1500 on his SATs, dropped out of school and has gone on to imbibe copiously and manage a RadioShack. That's a true story and it's one reason why I love this city. We have much higher hopes for this young gull, but I digress...

For a brief moment, before these animals fledge and become violent, desirous and trife, they are little balls of fuzz and optimism. Earlier this year, I took this footage of a much younger western gull, apparently beginning to exercise the tiny wing muscles that will eventually power it into the air:

The seemingly drunken twirl and tumble is the signature dance of the baby gull and it's one of the cutest animal behaviors that I've ever seen.

At this late date, most young gulls on Alcatraz are very deep in the process of losing their fluffy down and as the first video shows, a few of the older and braver birds are actually starting to grow the hardware necessary to contemplate life in the sky.

While these young gulls are poised to gain a measure of independence from their parents, less fortunate others are only now entering the world of the living:

And this story begins much earlier in the year on the island's western slopes. In 2010, this was the very first gull nest we observed on Alcatraz:

As far as we can tell, this nest was the first to bear gull chicks, though they would have done just as well to stay in the shell as this was the sad result:

Their entire brood died within a day of hatching. We began to refer to them as 'the worst parents on Alcatraz'.

And they may be, though they aren't through yet as we recently caught them incubating a new egg:

And before long...

As it turns out, this pair was incubating not one but two eggs... and equally apparently, this pair, challenged in the ways of parenting, has stretched its tally of dead young ones to four on the season. The new baby gull in front and to the right is not sleeping. The casualties of nesting season always seem to run unacceptably high.

Baby gulls die all the time:

We at Maganrord have no idea what allows one pair of gulls to successfully rear four young ones while another pair suffers two total brood failures in a single season. Perhaps they've just had a bad year. Maybe they're simply bad at this. We can't say for sure.

Another gull pair on Alcatraz is rearing a second brood after the failure of its first:

First we saw this:

One had hatched and a second egg was clearly visible.

Although I don't have a picture of it here, the second egg has hatched and both chicks are doing just fine.

In contrast to the aforementioned pair on the west side of the island, this pair is always feeding its young or yelling at a human being that ventures too close. As parents, these gulls seem far more attentive and competent. I can't say why these gulls lost out on their first brood, but I suspect they'll do much better this time around.

Meanwhile, our more advanced juvenile gulls will soon be learning the value of their flight feathers. In nesting seasons past, I've learned that in contrast to our skilled adult gulls, newly airborne WEGUs are terrible pilots. They don't know how to ascend, descend, change direction or land.

Up next, the sad conclusion of our cowbird series. Spoiler: Please don't tame a bird in a national park. Bad things will happen.


Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope that bird doesn't end up imbibing copiously and managing a Radio Shack or *gasp* a Best Buy. That was the point of this article, right?

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