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DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Wildlife/Nature Question: What to do with (possible) abandoned eggs in a nest?

Asked by DarlingRhadamanthus (11213 points ) July 4th, 2010

Okay…bear with me while I explain.

I live on a river and I care for the wildlife on it as much as I can. I have a predatory heron that comes and eats the young and eats the eggs of the moorhens on the river. Usually the build their nests in the dark brush across the river and then come out to my side when I feed them. Well, a moorhen (a coot in the US), for the first time built a nest on my side of the river which is accessible to all the night animals and the heron. I saw him swallow a whole brood of baby moorhens early one morning when I was awakened by terrified squawking from the mother hen. I could not get downstairs fast enough to stop it. It was quite brutal. I know this is nature, but they are tiny and vulnerable and it was painful for me to watch.

So, the moorhen laid the eggs and I have been watching the nest from a distance. However, in order to feed the other animals, I have to pass by her nest. I do so very quietly and respectfully. She will usually climb out of the nest, swim away and come back. She does this every time I come to feed the rest of the animals,so I didn’t worry. This time, I startled her. She must have been asleep when I walked by. She started squawking and hissing loudly at me and then swam out and then came back and hissed some more and swam away where she watched me. I decided to just walk away quickly.After I came back, I saw her come and look around the nest and then she swam away. I got worried.

About half an hour later, I went to check and she was not back on her nest. She has always seen me and not been startled, so I thought she would be okay.

It is almost nightfall, the eggs are in their nest and I don’t know what to do. If I leave them there overnight, there are predators (foxes, badgers, the heron, cats) that come into the garden. How long do I leave them? Will she just abandon them like that? And if I have to do a rescue, how do you take care of eggs like that so that they will hatch? Should I even take them in? It’s rather chilly in the evenings here.

Any information will be appreciated. Thank you.

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11 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

It’s likely that she’s abandoned the nest site for one a little more private, with less traffic. In all likelihood she’s been off the eggs too long by now to be able to save them. In order to rescue eggs, you would need to create an incubator to simulate the heat from the mother’s body. According to this, the incubation period is three weeks, and the chicks are ready to follow the mother into the water soon after birth. Even if you could hatch the eggs, it’s unlikely that you would be able to teach them the survival skills that they need.

Otto_King's avatar

It’s nature, just let happen whatever need to happen. I know it’s painful to see, because we don’t do the same things with each other what the animals do. But that’s why their life is wildlife, our’s is civilized one. Let’s don’t mix the two.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, not much that you CAN do.

Birds will often re-nest and raise several broods per season if something happens to a clutch.

This is nature, the only thing that makes it sad it that you are witnessing it, if that makes sense. lol

This cycle has repeated itself since time immemorial, some survive, some don’t.

Bad for the Moorhen, good for the Heron.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Save your self some unnecessary pain. Stop checking on the nest. Natures rules apply whether we like it or not.

Your_Majesty's avatar

move those eggs to another nearest moorhen nest. Really,the mother won’t notice about this. You’re not the only species to do such thing,some kind of bird(ah,forgot what they called it) lay their eggs in another nest of bird from different species.

Otto_King's avatar

@Doctor_D I think you ment to say the bird called Cuckoo. That’s true that they lay their eggs to other birds nests, before they do that they push out all the other eggs from the previous owner. And their eggs looks like just the one what was pushed out by her. So the owner of the nest is only going to notice the whole egg swap thing, when the small cuckoos came out of their eggs… Tricky tricky

El_Cadejo's avatar

ohhh yay my babies are hatching….ohhh wait a min…what in the fuck…..cuckoos!? BLAST FOILED AGAIN!!!! DAMN YOU CUCKOO DAMN YOUUUUUUUU!!!! <shakes fist> :P

Coloma's avatar

Brown Cowbirds do the same thing. I have seen house finches feeding giant Cowbird fledglings. lol

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

First of all….thank you for your answers and all your help!

I called the Wildlife Rescue and they told me the same thing…that nothing could be done because the eggs had been left and probably gotten cold. So, I did not go out again and took everyone’s advice here…too.

However, I kept good thoughts and my fingers crossed. This afternoon, I went again to feed the animals, but made sure to avoid the area where the nest was….and there was the moorhen back in the nest! I know she wasn’t there last night…so I have no idea when she came back. It’s possible that she had more eggs to lay, so perhaps some of them will hatch.

Once again…thank you for being out there…and being so helpful. Lurve coming….to all.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

By the way…a year later…..she did come back….and I had the largest number of baby moorhens ever. Hooray! And thank you all!

Coloma's avatar

Cool! Don’tcha just love to see nature thriving? :-D

I am having a record year of lizards and tree frogs. Every time I walk out my door at night tiny frogs go flying off the walls. haha

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