Be aware of birds of spring

Spring has sprung and this is
particularly evident in the flurry of activity exhibited by our feathered
friends, the birds. 

Close to 50 species are known to
breed in the Cayman Islands and those individuals that aren’t busy courting a
suitable mate are searching for a suitable nesting site, sourcing nest
material, building the nest, or, you guessed it, laying eggs. Subsequently, the
parent birds must incubate their eggs and rear the resulting chicks. 

On the face of it this process, laborious
as it sounds seems quite straightforward. But the potential for conflict exists
when these activities bring birds into proximity with humans.

The ubiquitous Ching Ching
(Quiscalus niger), for example, is usually gregarious, content to enjoy even
urban areas chock full of people. 

Once they construct a nest,
however, they become very aggressive, harassing animals that come too close in
an effort to defend their family. This is quite disruptive in instances where
nests are built near to human habitations; in fact, it is not unusual for the National
Trust for the Cayman Islands to field calls from concerned citizens who are
repeatedly being “dive bombed” by Ching Chings whenever they exit their
home. 

In such cases, the most effective
mitigation strategy is to discourage the building of nests before they are
established. There are several methods of bird control available from a company
called Nixalite, several of which can be adapted by the industrious homeowner.
It is also important to note that Ching Chings seem partial to nesting in
Christmas Palms – a popular ornamental import. 
Trimming branches prior to the start of nesting season is also an
effective method for deterring aggravation. 

 

Don’t assist

But the conflict is not simply a
product of the effects of nesting birds on people. Every year young birds are
removed from their families by concerned people who mistakenly believe they are
rendering assistance. 

Nestlings are infant birds and can
be identified by an absence of feathers. They are bare, or often covered in
fluffy down. If a nestling is discovered out of its nest, the worst thing to be
done is to carry it away. 

Nestlings must be fed every 15
minutes, all day long. This is obviously a task best carried out by parent
birds. Rather, a nestling should be quickly returned to its nest. A search of
the nearby area will determine the location of its nest and it can be replaced
without much in the way of trouble.  In
cases where an entire nest has been dislodged, it can be placed in a basket –
perhaps with some dry leaves and twigs – and hung from the tree it fell out of.

Fledglings by contrast are mostly
covered in feathers, with little if any down left on their bodies.

They are commonly sighted at the
base of trees; but, rather than having fallen out, they are learning to fly. It
is important that they are left alone in this pivotal moment of their life. If
there are pets in the area, they ought to be secured to ensure the fledgling is
not molested. 

Native birds have been a fixture of
these Islands since time immemorial. Peaceful coexistence is possible with only
a little consideration for their behaviour at different points in their life
cycles.

Ching Chings

A ching ching dive bombs a passer-by last year outside the Cayman Free Press offices.
Photo: Jewel Levy

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