Pipping Egg Passes Away

Today brought some much needed rain and another nest check. The South Florida drought is again becoming more threatening, but today’s passing showers brought a brief respite. The birds enjoyed the morning shower, though brief, with zealous preening and a social hour. The skies cleared for the early afternoon only to darken again around 5pm and then finally open up for another soaking before dusk. The skies remained solemn as darkness fell and the birds retired quietly for the night.

The nest check started around 4:30 on the gourd rack and house that is off camera. My 2 young children were taking a nap (YEAH!) and I was in checking on them frequently. I finally got to the gourd rack on the webcam right around 5 and the wind was starting to gust.

As I now have 31 compartments, I will post total numbers unless something of interest needs to be posted.

Total eggs: 65 Total young: 13

The two nests in the aluminum house have 6 eggs and 5 eggs, Numbered rack has only one troyer with no eggs. I added 2 more Troyers to the Lettered gourd rack and all the other gourds seem to be occupied but the egg laying has slowed to a crawl. Of the 10 gourds on this rack only 2 have eggs and only 1 egg in one and 2 in the other. I wonder if the dry weather is a form of natural birth control for the martins?

The pipping egg, that I had posted about recently had been in gourd #3. Among the first of this years babies to hatch, these nestlings are between 5 and 6 days old. I counted and there were only 4 of them. I was excited to meet the little nestling that would be some 2 days younger than his nest mates. I was curious to see how he would be fairing as the ‘runt of the litter’. I lifted a few of the fat little bodies out of the way and found the egg buried underneath them. The same as I had left it, with the hopeful hole pecked perfectly in the center of the egg. A small beak just below…only dead. Oh how sad. How close this baby had been to the world. What could have happened? I am guilt stricken.

This brings up an important point about pipping eggs that some may not be aware of.

There are 3 things that can cause a pipped egg to die without hatching.

  1. Humidity too high
  2. Humidity too low
  3. Poor or bad circulation of air

When an egg is pipping the amount of humidity or moisture in the air is critical. Being a wild bird, the humidity level in the nest is not something that we can monitor or adjust for. The birds know what they are doing. Some people have said that perhaps that is why green leaves are brought into the nest. It is one of those things that God endows his creatures with an inner knowledge that man, in all our sophistication, may never truly understand. When it comes to poultry, it is commonly understood that slightly too high humidity can drown a nestling. And humidity just a tad too low can cause the membranes to stick around the nose and basically suffocate the nestling.

The third and last cause, improper or poor air flow/circulation may well have been the likely culprit in this case. Nestlings can pip fast or slow and they do it in their own time. When it comes to poultry a chick can take an hour or a day…it’s really up to the bird. So the fact that I did not see movement was not a concern but, It may well have been dead when I found it initially. We also have to consider that the other nestlings were being fed. The nestlings at 2 days old were already more than twice the size of the egg. They were mobile and wiggling around the nest to some extent. Raising their heads and instinctively positioning themselves in the nest. All it would have taken is one of the nestlings to rest its head over the small hole or for the moving babies to cause the egg to roll over enough to suffocate the nestling inside. I took care when putting the egg back in the nest to position it as I had found it…pip up and small side down. But I should have looked at the egg more carefully, to in fact confirm movement. I should not have assumed that the nestling was alive and well. Maybe in placing it back in the nest after picking up and replacing nest mates, that its ideal spot was disturbed and it was then more likely to roll to the side-sealing its fate? I will never know. Fortunately the 4 other nestlings are fat and oblivious to their brother (or sisters) demise. It’s a hard life-a birds life. Maybe that is why we work so hard to make the little parts we can easier for our martins. As you can see by the post mortem photo, that the nestling appears asleep and peaceful. Its little beak was through the inner membranes.

Speaking of hatching. The eggs in gourd #11 are due to hatch as of Wednesday April 15. So keep an eye out for more pipping and cross your fingers! Watch them on ournestcam, of course.

Other good news is the gourd on the Shepard’s hook now has 5 eggs. I wonder how those babies will feel about me mowing the grass and peeking in as I drive by?

Photos and Blog contents © 2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Pipping Egg Passes Away”

  1. Peter Says:

    Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…