Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Exotic Chicks

Lots of birds through the yard in the last couple of days. A flock of now about 20 juncos is a constant. We always have a few dark-eyed juncos in the spring and fall. We don't tend to see them in the winter, although they are supposed to be year-round residents of this region. Maybe this winter? Also present again today: yellow-rumped warblers, feeding and hanging about for a bit before continuing on their way. Yes, this time I'm sure. Resident chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches are working the feeders, along with the blue jays and occasional downy and hairy woodpeckers. Yesterday four or five ravens flew by in big lazy circles--unusual to see more than one or two at a time overhead here.

This afternoon I saw a guinea fowl.

All summer we were seeing a couple of these guys in the yard and on the road pretty regularly. Rumour has it that they belong to a hobby farmer a couple of kilometres outside the hamlet. I was always glad to see them again, assuming it was the same pair every time, because it meant that they had not yet been eaten by foxes, coyotes, fishers, perhaps harriers, red-tails, maybe a weasel, and the list goes on. The first time I googled "guinea fowl" more recipes came up than natural history, or animal husbandry, suggesting human beings as another possible predator of this bird in the wild, or at least, on the loose.

This afternoon's bird hung around and hung around. So finally, when I had a quiet moment I went out to try to take a picture of it.

Heading into the lilac.

It ducked into the big lilac and I could hear all kinds of noise.

The lilac.

Just as I was wondering who this bird was talking to I noticed a flurry of movement: chicks, eight or nine at least. I circled the lilac, the hen circled inside with the chicks following; I circled, they circled, and so on, and so on....good strategy on her part, for dealing with an awkward creature of my size.

And there she goes....

Finally I backed off and she lead them away up into the field and along the row of young spruce at the edge, also pretty good cover.

The shot that missed.

But the chicks are pretty small, and though quick, they don't exactly turn on a dime. Tough gig, mothering precocial chicks.

Small, and cryptically coloured as well.
There really is a chick in this image.


Anonymous said...

This is why I come to your blog all the time!

TroutGrrrl said...

Is this an ill-timed batch of chicks or is it normal? I'm guessing it's rather late.

Pamela Martin said...

They are originally from South Africa, so I would expect breeding to be tied to wet and dry seasons some how. But they are bred domestically so that may also have changed their breeding phases. I am hoping that this hen and her chicks get back home to whatever coop or farm they belong to before long--I imagine that an Ontario winter would be too much for them on their own. Also this site, which give a little of their history, says that in the wild they are monogamous breeders, at least suggesting that normally the chicks would be guarded by two parents. Not the case here, putting them at even greater risk for predation. (Not that the farmyard is a haven from that, of course.)