Drama in Sakers' life

Happenings at the nest followed quickly on 25th April. The second chick hatched at dawn. We received comments that the third egg was cracked and the chicks was on the way out, however the recorded sequences did not confirm that. We saw the cracks on the egg, but we did not see the third chicks in the nest.

The first news arrived at morning 7.40 on 26th April that the female, while having a break in the incubation, swept one chick out of the nest with her legs. After receiving the news, János and Éva Bagyura from MME/BirdLife Hungary, József Fidlóczky LIFE project manager and György Bíró, chief environmental expert of MAVIR left for the area.

As the information was about a chick fallen out of the nest, the search was carried out in an 50-metre circle around the nest – hoping that the chick made a lucky 'touchdown' and it is still alive. The search was unsuccessful. Neither the chick, nor any sign of its whereabouts was found in the immediate vicinity of the nest.

After the unsuccessful search in MAVIR's local office we analysed the sequence on the incident. It turned out that the chick was not 'swept out' and nor it was caught in the female's leg.
In an unusual way that has been never recorded, the sequence shows that the chicks was 'glued' with its feathers to the female's feathers and it was hanging from there. It is likely that a piece of wet part of the prey got on the back of the chick and that, or the faeces glued the birds together, when previously the female was incubating through more than an hour. The female did not notice the chick hanging on her (or she was not able to react properly), and flew off the nest with it.



We came to the conclusion that the male brought prey, which he may have left on their usual feeding site. (Last time we found a site where they use to eat the prey about 200 metres away from the nest.) The female flew off on the side of the camera. We saw on the sequence that she did not notice the chick glued to her, when she flew off. During the flight the chick was probably fell off on the ground.

After watching the sequence, we returned to the pylon and each of us started to search a given part of the area. The fact that the area is freshly sowed and harrowed helped the searched; even smaller white patches could be seen from far on the nicely smoothed field. Lack of vegetation, however, lessened the chances for survival for the chick. Finally, we have found the dead chick about 160 metres away from the pylon on the side of the camera.

The dead chick probably remained yet unnoticed by the Ravens and therefore they did not eat by that time.



Examining the chick, it became clear that it was healthy, and it was probably the older (and stronger) chick that did not survive the dive.

This regrettable incident – which is part of life – caused sad moments not only for ornithologists, but also to those more than one thousand viewers. At the same time, we were able to learn about a new risk factor that has not yet been recorded.



We received the news minutes after the unsuccessful rescue action that another, apparently healthy, chick hatched from the egg. So, we can study the life of two small birds again – hopefully until they fledge.

György Bíró

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