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Longtail chicks might not be abandoned, but beware just in case

Royal Gazette

By Owain Johnston-Barnes
Published Aug 9, 2013 at 8:00 am

RG_130809_1a.jpeg
A bird in the hand: Principal curator for the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, Dr Ian Walker
examines a Longtail that was found stranded on Horseshoe Beach last week. Dr. Walker (center)
is pictured with curator of BAMZ Patrick Talbot and Kamille Minors, a summer student who has
worked with BAMZ for many years and is studying to become a veterinary technician.

The Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo (BAMZ) is calling for the public to look out for stranded Longtail chicks as the birds prepare for their first flights.

A spokeswoman said that during August and September Longtail chicks are sometimes found seemingly abandoned, either on land or floating in water, but often the “abandonment” is a normal part of their development.

“Nevertheless, the BAMZ would still encourage the public to bring in a bird they believe is abandoned so that technical staff can assess the animal,” the spokeswoman added.

Over the summer months, Longtail chicks go through a eight-to-ten-week fledging process, losing their down feathers and growing flight feathers.

During this process, Longtail parents feed the chicks until they are ‘supersized’. While an adult Longtail typically weighs between 350g and 400g, the fledglings can weigh as much as 600g.

“When the chicks are ready to leave the nest they stop eating, which is a signal to the parents to stop feeding,” she said.

“Hatching and fledging in a hole in a cliff restricts the young bird’s ability to exercise its wings and take practice flights as woodland birds or those that nest in the open might do. Therefore, a Longtail chick’s first flight presents an almost ‘do or die’ scenario for the chick.

“It is at this point the public sometimes bring in chicks because they think they have been abandoned. However, the chick is actually slowly losing weight and building up courage to fly. This process can take over a week, hence the seeming abandonment.

“During the summer boating season more people get out on the water and come across Longtails they believe are in trouble. So far this year [BAMZ] have received six Longtails — three adults and three chicks.”

Anyone who finds a Longtail (adult or chick) injured or compromised in some way is asked to contact BAMZ at 293-2727.