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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hummingbirds III: Rufous-tailed Hummingbird chicks

Some things that happen in nature fill us with wonder. A newly born animal can be especially wondrous. Another spectacular natural being is the hummingbird, really any and all of them are magical. This week, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl) hatched at The Mountain School, giving us a beautiful gift and an opportunity to document their nesting characteristics, as well.
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Tropical hummingbirds typically have two eggs. Both eggs in this Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nest hatched successfully, and were approximately one day old at the time of this photo. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
Hummingbirds have very small eggs, hence their chicks are inconceivably small. They are also very weak and fragile, so much so that it seems improbable that they would even accept food. These chicks really didn't even seem alive, but they were receiving food and attention constantly. FUNDECI/GAIA intern Pauline Pearse, with plenty of experience at handling chicks on nest, reviewed the chicks carefully, then returned them to their abode.
Amazilia tzacatl
The chicks are being attended on a nest along a path at The Mountain School. The nest is only 1.2 m above ground, but deep in the vegetation and difficult to see. Photo Pauline Pearse.
Two Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nests were located, and both clutches hatched at the same time. Their small cups were located near walkways with considerable foot traffic around, both in tiny cups with lots of spider web and fine material. One of the nests contained thin strips of plastic.
hummingbird chick
Pauline Pearse holds the two hummingbird chicks (Amazilia tzacatl) approximately one day after hatching. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
The backs of the chicks were covered with sparse, reddish hairs, and no feathers were evident yet. Although both were small, one was considerably larger than the other, perhaps having hatched first and gotten a head start on feeding. Moss and lichens decorated the exteriors of both nests.
Amazilia tzacatl
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nest with day-old chicks in an ornamental plant. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Another nest was found in plain view, at 1.8 m above the ground on a cedar (Cupressus lusitanica) hedge along a walkway next to the communal kitchen. The chicks were also healthy and their care seemed to be vigorous.

The FUNDECI staff discussed that evening, the different threats to the nests, mainly predators which would eat the chicks, unwitting workers involved in yard maintenance, and even children who may not respect the fragility of these marvelous nests and chicks. This was perceived as an excellent educational opportunity for the children of the farm workers living in the Casas Ecologicas.

Amazilia tzacatl
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird sitting on nest with two recently-hatched chicks. Photo Pauline Pearse.
These nests were discovered while we were engaged in another study in the area, a typical example of the serendipity that results from good work in a dedicated fashion. We left the nests to be observed another day.

We were appreciative to get the opportunity to see this bird nest at The Mountain School, in Matagalpa where it is common. This species is rare in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.

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Tropical Kingbird
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