This year the Red-shouldered Hawk nest that I wrote about a few years
ago had four chicks to start. After a couple of weeks there were only
three, and a week or so later when I looked - on the second day of
the unseasonal heat wave - there were none. The upper leaf canopy is
sparser this year (due to unseasonal frost, I've heard), so I've
wondered if the chicks might have overheated. They seemed a little
big to have all been eaten by a King Snake - they were big enough to
have some dark plumage and were practicing spreading their wings (but
it was way to early for them to have fledged). I didn't get around to
climbing a ladder to the roof of my yurt to see if there were dead
chicks in the nest.
Another possible variable is the mother. She looked like a different
bird than in years past. I don't know if the feathers on her head and
mantle might have darkened with successive molts, but there seemed to
be a sharper line between the dark plumage of her mantle and the
light orangey-white plumage of her breast. So maybe she was a less
experienced bird. The first year I observed the mother stand between
the chick and the sun and spread her wings to create a sunshade on a
particularly hot afternoon. I wasn't watching much this year so I
didn't see what happened on the first day of the heat wave.
I will be interested to see if the adult pair uses the nest again -
this year or another year.
Would appreciate any thoughts on the overheating hypothesis.
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