A sick chick at home

Although one would always wish that illness or disability would strike at no-one, it is a part of life and when it comes it has to be dealt with…
Our superb nest camera at Whinlatter installed this year has given us tremendous joy and a tremendous insight into the private lives of our ospreys over the past weeks. For the first time we watched an egg being laid and for the first time we had views of a hatched chick only minutes old. It is a privilege. It is also a privilege to see the darker side of the natural world.
As with all creatures, including ourselves, sickness, accident and disability are a natural part of the cycle of living and dying. We deal with these things to a greater or lesser degree, but it is rare to see how other species cope.
It is a week now since our eldest chick fell ill and became unable to move its right limbs. Our expectations were that either it would depart life quickly, within 24 hours, or get better. In the event neither of these happened as we made our predictions without taking the behaviour of its mother KL into account. A common attitude of birds would be to ignore or tip out a chick that displayed aberrant characteristics. However, KL has, to the best of her ability cared for her sick chick. Of course, the two healthy chicks must be her priority but. at night she has brooded it with the others, and she has fed it when it begged for food, moving herself into a position for it to reach her beak. Her main dilemma has been what to do when the sun shines (most of this week!) To prevent the chicks from getting de-hydrated or sunburned she stands on the nest edge casting her shadow over them. As the sun moves she moves and the healthy chicks scramble into the shade to keep cool. So for some of the time the sickly chick, has been left out– but periodically she has deliberately come and stood over it. Undoubtedly it is this care that has kept it alive, if not thriving, this long and we have had a unique opportunity to see how one wild family is coping with a difficult situation.
On a much brighter note the other chick that looked ill has recovered and is eating and growing heartily!