Monday, September 19, 2011

And the nest, they say, is history

"Today, we are witnessing a Philippine ornithology historical event!", I proudly declared to my wife, Cynthia, and to our birding buddy, Neon.

When we first heard the news a couple of weeks ago from John and Vivette, our friends from church, that an unusual bird has laid some eggs in their neighbor's garden, we were very intrigued. Our curiosity was even more stoked when Vivette sent photos of the bird and the eggs through her cellphone. First and foremost in our minds was, what bird was it? Inasmuch as the nest was found in a gated subdivision in Antipolo City, we had to arrange for the our friends to inform the gate guards to let us in. As soon as we arrived at their house, Vivette immediately took us to the residence of Leoncio and Linda. Linda was very excited as she ushered us to where the nest was, which surprisingly, was on one of her flower pots located about a meter from the ground and about two meters away from the street!

We peered into it and were dumbfounded to see a dark-colored bird with a bright rufous head, neck and breast. I quickly pulled out my Kennedy guide. Leafing through the pages, we narrowed down the identity of the mysterious bird to three possibilities: Red-legged Crake, Ruddy-breasted Crake and Slaty-legged Crake. Since the crake in question is sitting on the nest, we couldn't see the color of the legs. Red-legged Crake is  very rare, so that couldn't be it. The book says the Ruddy-breasted is about 7 1/2 inches in length. The bird we're looking at is definitely bigger than that. We concluded that our nesting waterbird was a Slaty-legged Crake. Continuing my perusal of the description of this species, I was suddenly speechless as I repeatedly pointed to my wife the line that says "Nest and eggs not described from Philippines"!

That was the start of our regular pilgrimage to this reverent place as we monitored the progress of the nesting habits of Rallina eurizonoides, now that we have become aware of the importance of what was happening right before our very eyes. This was Philippine ornithological history in the making.

And today, 20 days after the hen started sitting on her four eggs, they hatched. Mom and chicks were all doing well. Dad was nearby, waiting for his brood to join him as they forage for food.

Based on our observations, here are some data that describes the nesting behavior of the Slaty-legged Crake:

1) The nest was about a meter above ground and consisted of dried grass, dried leaves and pine needles. It was quite shallow, only about two inches deep.

2) There were a total of four eggs which were plain white in color (no spots nor streaks). They were laid one egg per day. On the fourth day, after all the eggs had been laid, the crake started sitting on them.

3) Total incubation period was 20 days. There were times when the eggs were left unattended while the parent(s) hunted for food. We were not 100% sure if both parents took turns at sitting on the eggs.

4) The newly-hatched chicks were blackish in color. We expect them to be out of the nest by tomorrow (the 21st day).

1 comment:

Ned said...

I sent the news out into the twitter stream, soon as I received word from Kitty Arce about the discovery. Wonderful news for Philippine ornithology! Congratulations.