Friday, December 21, 2012

2012-12-21 Marianas Fruit Dove

The Marianas Fruit Dove is a rare and endangered species among our local birds - so classified I guess because they only are found on a few of our Mariana Islands and only raise one chick at a time. They seem common enough here but are very shy - though their very distinctive call can often be heard they are less often seen. It is also our most colorful bird as adults – almost like a parrot.

Several of us were at the Fiesta grounds back in early May. A friend and I were wandering around taking pictures and comparing notes. Others were talking on the bandstand. Suddenly I saw something not looking much like a blown leaf in one of the links of the chain link fence across the street and asked,
“What’s that in the fence?”
“I don’t know, could it be a leaf?”
As we approached we exclaimed -

“It’s a bird!”
“A green baby bird!”
“Oh my word! It’s a baby Marianas Fruit Dove!”
A chick of a rare and endangered species!
Where it was it was certainly in danger from dogs or cats. We snapped pictures, conferred with the others  Generally the parents will continue caring for a bird that has fallen or tried to fledge too early, so if it's in a safe spot it should be left alone. But we neither saw nor heard any adult Fruit Doves around and it sure wasn't safe there. We decided we needed to rescue it.
As we went closer it struggled to fly off but just couldn’t get airborne and landed on the ground – inside the locked fence. We convinced one of the males among us, a thin guy, to squeeze in through the small opening where the gate was loosely chained and fetch it. Though it kept scurrying along the ground he was able to get it, very gently and hand it out to us.
Another fellow with us had once raised birds so we entrusted it to his care until it was able to fend for itself. Once handed over, he was quickly able to calm and gentle it and we took more pictures.
You can also see an adult Marianas Fruit Dove picture here and by clicking on – "listen to recording" – you can hear its distinctive call.
On a morning walk this week, when I got to the end of Kammer Beach I noticed some vehicles and guys at the edge of the fiesta grounds. Stevedores waiting for someone to come with a key to the gate in the same fence we’d found the baby bird in back in May. They were all staring and gesturing upward into a tree. Of course I HAD to saunter over and find out what a bunch of stevedores were so excited about. They’d spotted a baby bird! And yes it was a Marianas Fruit Dove! The Mom was hovering nearby and I saw her easily but had a tough time locating the chick. (We assume Mom though I believe both parents are involved in protecting the young. )
After the guys were off to their duties, the area was quieter. I waited a bit further into the fiesta grounds and the Mom joined her baby. That’s how I found the baby! Then I shot a bunch of pictures. A bird photographer’s dream!
The next morning  they were still there. When the Mom would arrive or when she’d change position the little one would either walk to her or futter its wings and half fly – half stumble to her.
It definitely seemed to prefer life snuggled up to Mom.
In the afternoon Mitch and I returned. The Mom bird put in only a short appearance. 
This morning she didn’t appear at all and the chick looked very forlorn. Its feathers were fluffed out as it huddled without moving.
As I watched a Donne Sali flew into the tree. Then hopped branch to branch, closer and closer to the lone huddled chick with rapt attention.
I assumed it was going to attack the chick. Sure enough, it suddenly zoomed in toward the chick but not AT it. Sali attacked a Kingfisher zooming in on the chick from the other side and chased it off. I was stunned. The Kingfisher noisily, retreated to some wires across the street, looking a bit dejected then. As I moved closer and closer taking its picture, it preened itself then flew off.
Then I noticed that whenever I stood under the chick not only were Donne Salis lurking about but terns singly or in small groups would hover all around and come quite close to me. I’ve never heard of one bird species protecting another species' lone chick but it sure seemed like it.
Later in the morning out running errands with a friend we swung by there and I was relieved to see them both Mom and babe snuggled up together again.

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