A local news story lately raised a chuckle in the RSPB office.
Colleague: ‘A Christmas tree in Kent apparently can’t be taken down because there’s a pregnant dove in it’.
Me: ‘Ha! Christmas.’
Colleague: ‘Yeah... Also, you can’t get a pregnant dove.’
It’s true, of course you can’t. I’d just never thought about it. Nor, it would seem, had that particular news site.
Since joining the RSPB team last year, I’ve learned all sorts of things I never knew I never knew about wildlife. Like that puffins are as endangered as the African elephant. And that toads can live for 40 years.
Since it’s Easter, instead of rolling out the usual egg-based puns (you're very welcome), I thought I’d share a few egg facts to dazzle friends and family with over that spring lamb dinner.
Birds produce eggs, like humans. Then, once fertilised, instead of allowing them to develop internally, they lay them and incubate them in the nest. This enables mamma bird to keep flying around in search of food, without being weighed down. Makes sense.
So, if you spot a chubby chaffinch or a rotund robin in your garden, it’s probably just fluffed up against the cold. Or it’s eaten all the pies.
Blue tits, for example, will lay 6-15 eggs per clutch – one each day. Then, thanks to some clever evolution, the first will only start developing once the last is laid, ensuring all the chicks hatch together. Birds of prey are the exception. As any Springwatchers will know, the first owl chick to hatch may turn to its younger sibling when food is scarce. Moving on...
The number of eggs typically laid depends on where a bird ranks in the food chain. Birds of prey, because they’re at the top, only really need to rear one or two young to keep their numbers up, as opposed to garden birds, say, where only a few of their clutch are expected to survive to breeding age.
This is my favourite. As well as allowing for ‘ease of entry’ into the world, the curved shape of an egg is designed for strength, much like a bridge is. With this, being tapered at one end allows several eggs to sit snugly together in the nest, and means if they roll, they just roll around on their axis, rather than out of the nest or off a cliff. Clever!
So there you have it: four awkward egg questions egg-splained (you didn’t think you were getting away that easily?). And a cute picture of an avocet chick.