“Nudging Nestlings”

“Nudging Nestlings”   This season’s Merlin hatchlings have become nestlings! At first they are in white down with eyes closed. Then they change to grey down, opening their eyes and can barely lift their heads at first. After 8-10 days they can thermo-regulate on their own, unless its very cold or rains, in which case the adult female will brood them with her body and wings. They nudge each other in utter restlessness and will be in the nest 25-26 (males) 28-30 (females) days with 3-5 siblings to share food and space with. The bigger females push on the smaller males in an attempt to exert dominance, create space in the nest, steal food and all hold on as best they can while they wait for their flight feathers to molt in. A prey delivery from a parent triggers a frenzy as the nestlings attempt to grab the kill first, eat more than their siblings, wrestling morsels from each other and jabbing the smaller males out of the way. After a few weeks nestlings can feed themselves and no longer require parental feeding. To prepare for flight and to pass the time, nestlings flap excitedly from the nest and near branches and down feathers float off their short brown wings in the process. The life of a nestling varies between quiet and harried routines, and often they can be seen standing, laying, waiting and sleeping in or near the nest for the next prey delivery. Until that happens though, they pick at old bones and each other, antsy to soon fledge. Watching them in the field at this time can be a lot of fun!

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