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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tropical Kingbird III: Feeding the babies

As we earlier posted, a pair of Tropical Kingbirds (Tyrannus melancholicus) produced three eggs this past Mother's Day in a vigorous courtship, which has now become three rapidly-growing chicks. Both parents spend all the daylight hours defending them and providing food for them. Here, we present more photos of this growing family, with special thanks to Rebecca Brown for camera donation.
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The Tropical Kingbird watches over an open area from a high perch, in plain view of the nest where three chicks are in constant desire of food. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
Within a week of hatching, incipient wing-feathers became visible among the hair-like plumage characteristic of most nestlings. The Tropical Kingbird chicks have grown rapidly, but sleeping and eating are their only activities.

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A week after hatching, these Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) chicks are beginning to show flight feathers. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
One parental bird remains with the nest at night, but both parents are seeking food for the chicks all day long. They mostly catch items on the wing, capturing all kinds of insects in the sky, grabbing arthropods from leaves or even plucking tiny fruits such as hot peppers. Although little idle time remains for the adults, they communicate constantly, bicker, and they even occasionally perform a "dance"-each flying in tandem about four meters high, from a perch, while singing.
tropical kingbird
Once the Tropical Kingbird chicks awaken, only one thing can be on their minds-food. The parents feed them small insects and fruits, and even larger insects such as butterflies and dragonflies. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Both parents are near the nest during all daylight hours and nothing happens there of which they are not immediately aware. They squabble with other birds, especially Social Flycatchers which have a nest only some twelve meters away. The Tropical Kingbirds are adept flyers and fearless, taking on any animal that enters its territory, even humans, who will feel their presence from behind if lingering nearby.
birdwatching nicaragua
The orange flash colors in the crest of this Tropical Kingbird are visible when the bird feels threatened, although the chicks are all oblivious to any danger nearby. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Far from being free of danger, these chicks at one week of life after hatching would represent a merry morsel to most other animals. The parents must continue their protection aggressively, given that the nest and chicks are readily visible and accessible from land and air.
baby birds
Upon waking, the chicks immediately open wide and beg, expecting a tasty insect or fruit. Whereas in the first couple of days, all food brought was regurgitated, the chicks now must ingest their food items without as much prior treatment. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The Tropical Kingbird is not only valiant, it is also somewhat tolerant of humans, permitting some great opportunities for nature photography. While by no means the rarest or most spectacular bird in Nicaragua, it is nonetheless an interesting and somewhat willing subject, and an example of what a birdwatcher can expect beyond just seeing a lot of different birds. These birds are available to the observer in both forested and altered settings, and they can make a fine show.
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Parental Tropical Kingbirds both deliver food in turn throughout the day. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

tyrannus melancholicus
A parental Tropical Kingbird observes in loving contemplation of the chicks. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The chicks still have considerable growth ahead of them before fledging, and even then, dependence continues, as they learn to fly and feed themselves. This parental pair will continue to be busy for weeks to come. 
tyrannus melancholicus
Foods provided to the chicks include vegetable matter, as is shown in the bill of one of the parental units. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We at FUNDECI/GAIA organize birdwatching tours in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and elsewhere, and we would love to take you on a birdwatching excursion. Even common birds such as the Tropical Kingbird can make a marvelous camera model and give plenty to watch. This is only one of more than 220 bird species found in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and more than 700 species in Nicaragua. Please contact us if you would like to go birdwatching with us, or if you would like to participate in bird research or monitoring with us.


You can help us keep nature wild in Nicaragua, by volunteering your time with us or making a small donation to support our projects in wild nature conservation.



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