On the Trails: Wildlife babies

HOARY MARMOT: Four hoary marmot kits peer out of their den in the second week of June. The kits are three or four weeks old when they first emerge from the den. Their parents mated in the den about two months previously. The kits will be mature at age two or three years but commonly stay with their parents until that time.


SITKA BLACK-TAILED DEER: A Sitka black-tailed deer gave birth to twin fawns on a beach in Thane in early June, after a gestation period of about seven months. Twins are common, and fawns generally stay with their mother through the winter. Some females breed at age one, but regular breeding typically begins at age two years.

PORCUPINES: Porcupines mate in the fall, but the single offspring is not born until about 30 weeks have passed, a very long gestation time for an animal of this size. Porcupettes (that is what the young ones are called!) are weaned after three or four months. Females mature at age one year, but males mature at age two.

BEAVERS: Beavers produce up to four kits each year, which are usually born in May or early June. They don’t come out of the lodge until they are a few weeks old. These two kits came out to play. Kits typically stay with their parents until they are three years old, helping care for new litters of kits and participating in building dams.

BEARS: Black bear cubs are born while the female hibernates during the winter. They weigh less than a pound at birth and depend on their mother’s milk for about thirty weeks. They become independent of mother at age one and a half years but don’t mature until age three or so. Mating occurs in summer, but the embryo is not implanted in the uterus until fall; gestation lasts about 34 weeks.

HUMMINGBIRDS: Rufous hummingbird chicks spend up to 26 days in the nest. These chicks were photographed on June 3, about two days before they fledged. The female may lay two or sometimes three eggs, and she does all the parental care by herself. The males are busy looking for other females to mate.

ARCTIC TERNS: An arctic tern offers a dragonfly to its day-old chick in early June. Another chick peeks over the edge of the nest and the remaining egg hatched shortly thereafter. The incubation period is about 22 days if the nest is not disturbed but longer if incubation is interrupted. Both parents incubate and feed the chicks. After hatching, the chicks remain in or near the nest for about two weeks, and the parents brood them in bad weather. Parents continue to feed and guard the chicks until they can fly. Sadly, this nest was apparently depredated shortly after the chicks hatched.

MALLARDS: Mallard females are reported to lay as many as 13 eggs at each nesting, although larger broods are sometimes seen if wandering females dump a few eggs into someone else’s nest. I saw one brood of 14 ducklings in early June this year. The eggs are incubated for an average of four weeks. Once the eggs hatch, the ducklings stay in the nest for about a day, after which the mother leads them to water and they start to feed themselves while mother stands watch. Males play no part in parental care.

STELLER’S JAYS: Steller’s jays typically nest in April or May, laying an average of four or five eggs. Incubation lasts about 16 days and chicks commonly stay in the nest another 16 days, approximately. Both parents feed the chicks, in the nest and for some time after the chicks fledge. This brood recently left the nest.

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS: Ruby-crowned kinglets may arrive in late March or early April, but they don’t get around to nesting until May. This little bird lays five to nine eggs in a nest so small that the eggs are in layers, warmed not only by the bare skin of the incubation patch on the female’s belly but also by the warm blood coursing through her legs. Incubation, by the female, lasts almost two weeks, and the male feeds the female while she warms the eggs. Both parents feed the chicks in the nest for about 16 days and then for some time after the chicks leave the nest. This is a juvenile, not long out of the nest, with scraps of down still on its head and yellow edges on the bill.

RAVENS: A raven fledgling sits on the ground, awaiting food delivery by a parent in late May. Ravens lay an average of five eggs and incubate them for twenty to twenty-five days. Most, but not all, incubation is by the female and the male feeds her while she sits on the nest. Hatching is not synchronous, and some chicks are bigger than the later hatching siblings. The chicks stay in the nest for four to seven weeks, and if the smaller chicks survive, they may leave the nest a few days after their bigger siblings.

BALD EAGLES: An adult bald eagle stands watch over two-week old chicks in early June. Eagles usually lay two eggs; if three are laid, the third one seldom survives. Both adults, but mostly the female, incubate the eggs for about 35 days. Hatching is not synchronous, and if food is scarce, the larger chick may murder its sibling. Chicks stay in the nest, fed by both parents, for 10 or 12, but they are fed by the parents for several weeks after leaving the nest.


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