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Manu’s Second Attempt at Fledging

Sarah Faegre | Jun 08, 2008


Manu seems determined to abandon the nest tree, but he still isn't able to fly.

December 24th 2007

Yesterday around mid-day Manu fledged, once again, onto the ground.  I found him perched in a little sapling that he had climbed.  Vicente and I set up the portable blind and babysat the tail-less, flightless chick until 5 pm, when finally, on my watch, he fell from his little tree.  I did not go after him immediately this time, but instead waited to see if he would climb a decent tree on his own.  Alas, he waddled along the forest floor aimlessly, screeching with hunger and displeasure-he hadn't been fed by his parents since early morning, presumably because they did not want to come down to the ground or to his unstable perch on the sapling to feed him.  He tried to fly once, running along the ground, flapping his wings, but made very little progress.  He tried to climb a nearby palm but seemed to make only a half-hearted attempt before giving up and continuing to wander, weaving his way along the forest floor, screeching every 5-10 seconds, all along the way.  What a way to advertise to predators. 

Manu walked about 50 meters on the ground before stopping near the edge of the island.  I had waited long enough-Manu was clearly not capable of fending for himself, with or without the help of his parents so, once again, I retrieved him from the ground.  I set him in a tree, hoping he might climb, but he just sat there, panting from heat and stress.  I left Manu in the tree and went back to camp to discuss the situation with Vicente.  We decided to first see if the exhausted chick would eat some formula and then put him higher in a good tree, but not back in the nest. 

I carried a thermos of warm water and the hand feeding formula as Vicente and I walked back to where I had left Manu in the tree.  Although he bit me forcefully when I picked him up from the tree, he guzzled 50 cc of the hand feeding formula without a moments hesitation, giving little squawks of contentment between mouthfuls.  Before feeding him we weighed him and found that he had lost nearly 70 g in only one day.  On the 22nd, when he first left the nest, he weighed in a 662 grams (with ¼ full crop) and on the 23rd he was down to 590 grams with an empty crop.  Taking the crop into account, he had lost about 50 grams of bodyweight in less than 24 hours.  That is nearly 10% of his bodyweight.  No wonder he was too weak to fly or climb.  He was already skinny when he fledged at 662-not one of those fat chicks that can loose up to 25% of their bodyweight as part of the normal fledging process.

Once Manu was full-cropped and content we put him in a soft, cotton bag and Vicente climbed him high up into a palm encased in strangler fig.  The coils of strangler fig formed a network around the palm trunk, and also long, twisted branches that curved out over the forest floor.  We hoped the gnarled fig branches would provide plenty of opportunity for safe climbing and gripping as well as a safe haven where his parents would feel comfortable perching with him. 

Apparently Manu approved of our tree choice because almost 24 hours later, he is still there, in exactly the same spot where Vicente set him.  How much longer will he stay there, I wonder?  This morning Vicente and I walked to the estancia Veintiuno, me with my ridiculously swollen clown-lips from accidentally chewing up a wasp that I didn't see in my granola.  My lower lip was so swollen that I couldn't close my mouth and so heavy that with each step it jiggled like a horse's slack lower lip.  When we got to Veintiuno I explained that I had been stung by a wasp and the Senor joked, "Oh, I thought your husband must have been kissing you a lot last night."  Upon learning that I am single, I was immediately the butt of many jokes and comments about how I should spend the night...he needs a partner for I dance?  With my painful clown-lips and desire to be left alone, I didn't play along and simply stated that I don't dance and that I am already betrothed to a parrot, to whom I must return home to right away.

We completed the purpose of our visit: To ask if they would come to pick us up at camp with the ox cart on the 26th so that we can pack up everything and take it to their estancia and from there, in the plane to Trini.  The Veintiuno folks were very hospitable and fed us a wonderful breakfast of freshly fried charque, bread, and coffee and juice.  They really did want Vicente and I to stay for Christmas dinner (which is held on the 24th), but of course we had to get back to camp and check on Manu.  We left around mid-day to make the hour walk back before the sun got even hotter.  The Senor called his wife and told her to pack up some bread for us to take back with us—Christmas bread.  And so we made our way back.  Manu is still in his tree.  My homemade chocolate bars (from the cacao fruits that I picked) are hardening in the sun.  I am now rocking peacefully in my hammock.  Our work here at the campamento is done but I am sad to leave.  I love it here.  Only two more nights and then we pick up and move it all.