Reproductive biology

The nest is a large structure of twigs built around the crown of a palm and supported by lower fronds. Twigs are interlaced loosely to form a disorderly looking nest that measures 3-6.5 ft (1-2 m) in diameter. Twigs chosen for their nests are large (10-18 in [25-45 cm]), so it is impressive to see these relatively small birds struggling along with large twigs in their bills.

The nest is built by several pairs of birds that have individual nest chambers with separate entrances. The inner chamber is lined with shredded bark, on which eggs are laid. The female lays two to four purplish gray eggs that are heavily spotted at the broad end. Breeding is mainly between March and June but has been recorded throughout the year.

Old nests tend to fall to the ground as supporting palm fronds mature and break. Immediately afterward, if the nest is still active, twigs from the fallen nest are usually reused. In certain habitats in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where palms are uncommon (particularly in dry scrub and pine forests), palmchats are reported to build nests on telephone poles and in pine trees, and sometimes in mature broadleaf trees.

Palmchats are parasitized by a fly of the Philornis genus, whose eggs are generally laid on nestling birds and develop in a sac under the skin on the head or under the wing. The parasites apparently do no harm and when they complete the larval cycle abandon their hosts without complications. Up to 90% of all birds examined were hosts to the fly larvae.

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