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Brood time

posted May 30, 2011, 4:21 PM by Clemens Kuepper
The first hatching wave is rolling through Bahía de Ceuta. 15 nests hatched until Sunday and the chicks of these early broods have fairly good chances to survive. There is still plenty of water thanks to a relatively cold May which means plenty of food for hungry chicks. Under these conditions they are growing very quickly. Chicks can become independent as soon as they are able to fly which can be after 23 to 25 days in the beginning of the season. If there is little food, it takes rather 40 to 50 days. Fast growing chicks are also good for the caring male. First, it means that his genes will be transmitted to the next generations if he will be a successful parent of soon independent chicks that are able to reproduce themselves in the future. And second he might be able to have another go on producing a new nest with a new mate later in the season.

Snowy Plover territories are usually close to water where the prey for the chicks is abundant and easily accessible to the chicks. Because the water is evaporating fast the plover families are soon squeezing together in the most productive areas and there are endless conflicts between them. About 10 of the 15 families are currently fighting over an area of less than a hectar. The situation is not helped that every day more nests hatch and more families arrive at the preferred brood habitat. The caring parents, usually the males, are fighting with their neighbours and chase intruders all day long. Chicks are constantly trespassing the territory borders which causes more fights between the parents. If the chicks are young or weak it can be quite dangerous because they can be severly injured during these fights but after they survived a week they are usually quick enough to escape from these attacks. At this age the game resembles rather run and hide play: First, they trespass the border to get some more juicy food, then they have to run from the angry territory owner and hide behind the parents. They leave the parent fighting over all the trouble and simply search for food at the other end of the family's territory. 

Once the chicks are getting older the parents often lead them away from the competitve brood areas with easy access to water to areas further away from the water which are not so intensively contested. The chicks are now big enough to easily run to the distant water once or twice a day to drink but otherwise life is more peaceful.  

At the end of May most of the females still desert the broods within the first few days of the chicks hatching. There are plenty of single males left who are looking for a female to mate with and the couples then have to hurry if they want to complete the clutch successfully. At the end of June or the beginning of July the rainy season will start and the rain and incoming tidal water quickly floods the breeding area, so the chicks have to be out of the eggs by then to have a chance to survive.