GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
Location: St. Johns County FL
Photo: © 2004 Jeffrey Berger

When planning your nest egg for the best of times or the worst of times, here is a bit of savvy investment advice from a native bird. It is always best to hedge your bets by hatching more eggs than you will need. Whether breeding or investing, it is a time-honored strategy perfected over millions of years.

Most large birds - such as eagles, egrets, or herons - will produce more eggs than they are capable of raising. Since all eggs need the same time to incubate regardless of when they are laid, Mamma Egret starts incubation after the first egg is laid and continues laying her full clutch over a series of days. Thus, the first egg hatches first, the last egg hatches last, and not all chicks start life as equal opportunity egrets.

The first-born hatchling has no competition for food and grows rapidly. Chicks born later are sequentially smaller and less capable of competing for food against the older siblings. Even in the best of times, only the older chicks will survive while the youngest will waste away. During routine housekeeping, parents will toss the expired chicks overboard, which inevitably become snacks for waiting gators. This phenomenon is known as ‘brood reduction.’


Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Wow, that's an incredible picture. look at the shadow of the beak of the closer chick falling on the beak of the second chick.

It looks very painterly. Did you do something to it digitally or do things just come out like that?


Using a 600 mm lens, it just turned out that way.

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for the great blog, love this stuff. I don’t usually do much for Earth Day but with everyone going green these days I thought I try to do my part.

I am trying to find easy, simple things I can do to help stop global warming (I stress easy, I don’t plan on going out and buying a hybrid). I took the Earth Day Challenge that EarthLab.com is promoting ( http://www.earthlab.com/ ) and I am planning on lowering my score. They have some pretty good tips (they call them pledges).

I am looking for more easy fun stuff to do. If you know of any other sites worth my time let me know.

Ron Sullivan said...


Which is saying a lot, when your subject is egret chicks.

Vox Populi said...

Hey swampcracker,
Just wanted to point out to you that either it's me or you but one of us notices the other is missing.
I may have missed your posts because often I am in a hurry and can't read ALL of them but I haven't seen you lately and wanted to tell you HI !
Hope your daughter is well and safe and that you are hearing from her regularly.
Thinking of you two,

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

The Ugly duckling had far less to overcome than this gawky egret!

We've been watching an egret rookery as well. What a rowdy place!:


Phila said...

Followed you here, and am very glad I did! Absolutely beautiful work! Will highlight it this Friday....

Phila said...
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