Having just completed their first week on Cousin we can now proudly welcome the newest member of the family. This is a week old White Tailed Tropic bird chick and it is proving to be very popular with everyone; tourists and staff a-like. The White Tailed Tropic birds nest on the ground choosing safe and sheltered locations such as this root cavity at the bottom of the tree.
The chick will stay in the nest for up to 70 days and once the chick is fully feathered and weighs more than its parent, the parents will leave it to fend for itself with its eventual hunger driving it out to the ocean in search of food. The parents feed the young in the nest like most Sea birds by regurgitating semi-digested fish and usually when the chick is first hatched one of the parents will remain with it but as it grows both parents will be away from the nest, returning intermittently to feed the chick.
After about 14 days it will start to lose the white fluffy down that covers it at the moment and will start to grow its juvenile feathers which will be similar to its parent’s colouring but a bit darker, however it will take more than a year for it to grow the distinctive and attractive long white tail for which it is famous for.
Cousin Island Special Reserve has a very large population of White Tailed Tropic birds with approximately 1,710 breeding pairs (Data collected in the 2103 Seabird Census) and with a 57% success of the chick surviving to reach maturity it is a strong and growing population. The reasons for Cousin Island being such a successful breeding location? For a starter Cousin is rat and predator free making it a safe place for the birds to nest, secondly there is very little disturbance, except the camera wielding tourist, to the birds meaning they can nest and raise their young in relative peace and finally the abundance of food at a close distance.
Let us hope this chick is part of the 57%, we shall be following its progress keenly.
Tom Hiney, Chief Warden, Cousin Island Special Reserve