NAIROBI PARK DIARY

Mother’s tough choice

Much of what happens in nature can be very harsh, survival of the fittest

In Summary

• What might have happened for the mother to have fled before the last egg hatched?

Crowned plover and chick
Crowned plover and chick
Image: GARETH JONES

Several weeks ago, I noticed a bird sitting less than 2m from the road. It was a crowned lapwing. After stopping my vehicle for a few minutes, it was observed that she was a female sitting on three eggs. Every day, I noted that the bird was always on the nest, faithfully enduring her duty to protect the eggs.

It is very unusual to find a crowned lapwing nest so exposed to the elements, especially right next to a road with daily traffic. The eggs are a camouflaged in various shades of mottled brown in a place where there is very little cover of any kind.

Finally one morning I noted “two little fluffballs” with their mother. What a wonderful site! The chicks were only about a day old and their feathers still had camouflage markings on them. The weather was quite cool so they quickly huddled under the protection of their mother wings for warmth. Driving slowly away, I wondered about the third chick as it had not hatched yet.

The next day I returned to find that the mother and her two chicks were no longer there, and the nest was abandoned, with an empty egg shell in it, and the tiny dead body of a chick nearby. I wondered what might have happened, for the mother to have fled before the last egg hatched?

Perhaps a predator, like a jackal or eagle? Was mother was forced to choose between staying and escaping with the surviving chicks? We will never really know, but I hope they are safe somewhere. Perhaps the mother was forced to make a tough choice in order for her remaining chicks to survive.

Much of what happens in nature can be very harsh, survival of the fittest. May God favour over such little families with life.

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