Gwen and Stephen are not having a lot of luck in the breeding department this year. They took a long time building a nest and then got hit by two weeks of cold rain—the coldest May since the 1930s—so that the traditional Memorial Day hatching period came and went without any chicks emerging. When I saw a feather on the ground, I finally checked the nest because the beginning of molting signals the end of breeding. Amid huge caws of protest, I peeked and found two eggs in the nest. When couple of more days passed, I checked again and, lo and behold, there were three eggs. That made no sense: essentially Gwen was laying a third egg after the first two should have hatched.

Gwen's three eggs

Gwen’s three eggs

Today I checked again and the nest count was back down to two. Upon closer examination of the enclosure, I found the third egg on the ground where it had been dropped and the shell chipped away. Inside was a perfectly formed chick. I don’t know why it didn’t hatch. It has one wound on its abdomen but I think that may be from Gwen or Stephen pecking rather than a malformation during development.

embryonic African Pied Crow

Embryonic African Pied Crow

Although I haven’t seen Gwen spend much time on the nest, she must know something I don’t because that chick did not die early in the development process. I have to assume that egg #2 suffered the same fate as egg #1 but still hold out a little hope for egg #3. I have contemplated pulling it, but hatching an egg is notoriously difficult. Although I have an incubator, I would have to invest another $200 for an automatic egg-turner (birds move their eggs around as frequently as every 20 minutes 24 hours a day). I also don’t know when the incubation period started, so don’t know when the two-day-before-hatching period will start, indicating it’s time to stop turning. So I’m going with Mother Knows Best.

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