Townsend's Solitaire at Mammoth

Observers: Donna Willey
Verification: MONO
Remote Name:
Date: 08/02/2007
Time: 09:39 AM -0400

I wanted to post on the 2nd brood of the dippers, which by the way, has successfully been fledged; 2 healthy chicks the 3rd chick went missing and I only have assumptions as to what might have happened to it. So the dippers of Mammoth creek had 2 successful broods laying 3 eggs in each brood and fledging 5 chicks successfully. Just before leaving Mammoth Lakes for Yellowknife, NWT, I was on my way to check on the dipper nest the day I left and stumbled into the mating rituals of 2 Townsend’s Solitaires. They were just finishing a nest they had built on a rock ledge some 5’ from the ground, and I watched hidden under a red fir as the male fed the female an enormous insect of some sort. I left that day and I assume that within days the female Solitaire had laid her eggs and begun incubation. When I returned 5 days later I found 3 pretty light blue, brown speckled eggs in the nest. I cannot say exactly which day she laid her eggs, unfortunately, but I can approximate that she must have laid the eggs within 1-2 days after I left town which would make the incubation time 12-14 days. The fledgling period I can ascertain with more certainty at 15-16 days as I went on nest observations daily. The female alone seemed to do nest sitting on the eggs but after the chicks hatched both male and female were quite vigilant in bringing food to their young and I have some very nice photos of the nestlings and their parents. As I said the female Solitaire laid 3 eggs and 2 of these eggs hatched the third egg did not. The day the Solitaire chicks left the nest, I followed them and watched as the parents fed their young speckled-breasted chicks and was amazed to observe nearby another Warbling Vireo feeding another very large, almost fully grown cowbird chick. Now this cowbird chick was not the same one that I had photographed several days earlier. I was in a different part of the forest and stream and this chick was quite a bit more mature. As one of the young Solitaires waited for its meal, the cowbird came flying in and sat right next to the young solitaire chick who then opened his mouth wide and commenced begging for food thinking the cowbird was a parent. It soon realized its mistake and the two sat there looking at each other and it seemed to me, quite bewildered. They then began touching beaks and perhaps smelling each other. After this beak touching ended, they began grooming themselves. Now both birds were waiting to be fed and while they waited they sat together on the branch a good 10 minutes. Yes, I do have photos of this and if anyone is interested to see them, let me know. The vireo parent returned first and would not fly near the two chicks sitting together so finally the cowbird flew to the vireo who then fed it.