Wednesday 10th June comments: Time is marching on and the seabird breeding season has peaked and yesterday brought the first of many; jumplings! Our Auks (Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills) have all been feeding chicks since mid-May and yesterday came the big news that we had our first bird depart the cliffs for the open sea.
Guillemots and Razorbills have a very interesting breeding strategy as they lay a single egg but rather than build a nest, incubate the egg under their feet like Penguins (sometimes referred to as northern Penguins!). Once the chick hatches the parents will feed it until after twenty days or so its time to jump…
Although the chick is far from ready to fly, the male bird will call the chick down to the sea from the safety of the cliff ledge (regardless of height – some of our cliffs are 200ft so a long way to jump!). With no food coming in, the chick has no option and despite the drop, it jumps for its little life. As the bird is so young, they can take big impacts as the birds bones have not developed and so it bounces down and eventually is reunited at the base of the cliff with its parent (hence the chicks are known as ‘jumplings’)
Once safely down, the adult will take the chick out to sea (20-30 miles out) where it will grow its flight feathers and learn to become independent. It’s a tough start to life but it’s a strategy which works time and time again. Yesterday our first Razorbill chick jumped and over the next six weeks we’ll have many more… Good luck little guy we’ll see you back in future years.