Monday, July 16, 2007

Chipping Sparrow Dad and Little Chip

I'd been hearing the "whirrrrrrrrrrrr" feed me sound, a kind of almost metallic clicking like a wind up toy, of a Chipping Sparrow fledgling for some time and hadn't been able to find him. Then Dad came down in the grass and I spotted the Little Chip.

Chipping Sparrow parents feed with a kind of repeated poking motion into the gape of their young. I wondered if Dad was regurgitating seed or if he had the seeds all lined up in his beak and conceivably just kept poking the seed in one at a time as they came into position. Perhaps with the guidance of his tongue?

Sure enough in this photo you can see the seed line up in Dad's beak. Little Chip has no such thoughts about mechanics. He's just interested in getting it.

Another mini-pause as the next seed up comes into position.

As suddenly as he comes, Dad goes. L.C. watches him recede with focus.

Dad's back with another side line up. One gets the impression that L. C. would prefer a continuous conveyor belt.

L. C. is being so aggressive about getting the next seed that Dad hops to the side to get a better angle, making it more difficult for L.C. to bear down on him as acutely for a second or two.

An aggressive adult Chipping Sparrow raises the rufous triangle of feathers on the top of his or her head. Here L. C. stands the feathers on the top of his head in a similar manner. Begging is seriously aggressive business.

Gone again? L. C., waits more or less patiently as Dad hits the ground under the feeder again.

L.C. looks down. Aha! A seed. He gets it into his beak.

Okay, how does one get it from the tip of one's beak back where swallowing is possible?

L. C. bobs his head up and down in the attempt to get the seed into position and to swallow it.

Whoa! Someone is staring.

L. C. ducks down behind some blades of grass and looks back.

It doesn't look safe to L. C. so he hunkers down and bugs out hunched over in the grass.

Two hours later, Little Chip has what may well be his first bath. It is a muggy day and he looked to have enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately there is no Dad in sight. L C. begins to whirrrr. No response. Then comes an even more insistent whirrrrrrrrrrrr.

Dad may be off attempting to get a meal for himself and L.C.'s bath was just the break he was looking for.

Dad Chipping Sparrow appears in a few moments with another line up. L.C. is relieved and well--HUNGRY!



Karen Anne said...

Where is Mom, I wonder? Is it the Dad's responsibility to feed fledglings in a chipping sparrow household?

Donegal Browne said...

Karen Anne,

Very good question. Where is Mom most of the time? I've some theories but I truly don't know absolutely for certain.

First off, for those who don't know, Chipping Sparrows of either sex look alike. No handy color variation with these guys.

This morning there were two Chipping Sparrows tag team feeding Little Chip. As the two adults weren't doing the Chipping Sparrow dive bomb at each other and are feeding the same chick, I reasonably sure that the two adults are the mated parents.

Therefore Mom was on the job this morning. Now I'd also say that Little Chip is either the only surviving chick of the latest brood or he's the Tail End Charlie.

I noticed with the previous Chipping Sparrow broods that they came off the nest perhaps more widely spaced in age than some other passerines. Therefore if four or five chicks showed up with Dad, Mom most likely at that point was sitting on a new batch of eggs, the eldest chick would be already making attempts at feeding herself while the youngest of the brood would still be working on flying from place to place without mishap and making absolutely no efforts in the self feeding department. The other chicks would be at staggered rates of maturation in between. So Little Chip may be the last of the previous brood to go out on his own therefore Mom was helping out with him before starting to brood the next set of eggs.

I did notice tonight that after sunset Dad, with Little Chip most likely already full and roosting with Mom's help, was finally able to have a meal all to himself without having to disperse most of it, one seed at a time, to his progeny.

During the first broods of the season I didn't see Brown-headed Cowbird chicks amongst the young being fed in Chipping Sparrow broods. Though the Cowbirds must have been successful with some species as 4 or 5 juvenile Cowbirds began to appear at the feeders. They have since disappeared. Whether through dispersal or the predation of the local Cooper's Hawk I don't know. Though a neighbor saw the Cooper's feeding a fledgling hawk with a "young dark gray bird". Which might have been a Cowbird.