Subsequent to my earlier post (Part II), I was out of Bangalore and could not report about the happennings at the nest. I returned to Bangalore on the night of 1 May 2008 and my wife, Renee told me that there was only one chick which had grown and had been very active within the nest, calling frantically all the time. I was very eager to see the chick myself and to take a few photos.
The early morning on 2 May 2008, we heard calls of Sunbirds and I was determined to capture a few photos after it became brighter. However, when I went out with my camera at about 8.00 am, we discoverd that the nest was empty! The chick had embarked on her first flight early in the morning, almost 21 days after her emergence out of the egg! (The egg was hatched on 10 April 2008). We searched for the birds all around but could not see them anywhere. I was disappointed, but happy for the success of the breeding process.
Renee had kept regular track and her observations are as under:
1) It was labour of love for the female alone throughout, during the incubation and feeding stages. The male just appeared very few times and participated in feeding just for the sake of it. It was the female who did everything till the end - almost 'single parenting'!
2) Very rarely, small caterpillars were brought to the nest and fed to the chick. Generally the female came with food stored in her crop and then possibly regurgated the same to the chick several times. Perhaps the chick was fed with nectare also. During every feeding session, the female would spend quite sometime perched at the entrance and would feed the chick in installments. It seems that she would also spend a lot of time cleaning the nest.
3) The growth of the chick appeared to be slow and steady. The calls of the chick could be heard only after about 10 days and then slowly the chick started peeping out of the entrance hole. The feathers developing on the head, curved beak and faint marks on both sides of the beak were visible then. That is the time it was discovered that there was only one chick, rather than usual two.
4) There were three episodes of thunderstorm and heavy rain during these 20 days, however the nest remained intact, though appeared so flimsy!
5) An interesting thing was noticed on 28 April morning. A pair of White-eyes visited the Sandal tree and spent sometime on the tree looking for insects. During the process, one of the birds hopped upto the Sunbird nest, explored the same all around, picked something (perhaps a spider or ant) from external surface of the nest. The chick gave a call and hid inside the nest! The Whiteeye did not peep / explore the inside of the nest. After a minute or so both the Whiteyes flew off.
6) We checked the nest closely this morning. It is amazing the way it is made by such a tiny bird. It is woven with fibres, cobwebs and covered with bark pieces, soft seeds, caterpillar excreta etc. with a cantilevered canopy protruding over the side entrance hole. The hole has smooth lining perhaps made of saliva. The most amazing is the soft and deep mattress like cusion inside, almost 5 cm thick! No wonder the chick was so comfy and safe! the nest was amazingly clean, almost sterile! No smell at all!
It was an interesting experience for us in our garden, right from the Easter upto the Labour Day. True labour of love!
Best wishes to the Sunbirds and all of you!