Day 10: Ten Lords a Leaping
The days immediately following birth can vary tremendously among different species. Neonates, or newborns, are born somewhere in the range of completely helpless and requiring complete care, to quite mature and able to care for themselves shortly after birth. Species that give birth to helpless young are known as altricial (think humans…and Giant Pandas), whereas those whose young are mobile and mature (sometimes amazingly so) are known as precocial.
Many species of ducks and geese have precocial young, who although still requiring parental care, can see, walk and swim almost immediately after hatching. For cavity nesters such as Wood Ducks, this ability becomes very important soon after hatching, as ducklings must make their way from the nest to the water with no help from their mother. The day-old hatchlings must make a spectacular leap out of the nest, which is usually located in a tree cavity or nest box as high as 50 feet above the ground! This is all fine and good if the nest is located directly above the water, but that is not always the case. PBS Nature captures the great plunge on film:
And even more impressive, but not for the faint-of-heart, this video by BBC Life documents the unbelievable leap of a cliff-nesting Barnacle gosling. The video is gut-wrenching to watch, but it ends happily, I promise.