Helping Snowy Plover Hatchlings Out Of Their Shell

From abandoned eggs to hatchlings, these Western Snowy Plovers continue to thrive. Photo: Dr. Rebecca Duerr – International Bird Rescue

These three Western Snowy Plover hatchlings had a rough start in life. For unknown reasons, their parents did not return to the nest for more than 24 hours. Biologists from San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory grew concerned when they could hear peeping inside the eggs and knew they were close to hatching. They decided to rescue the eggs in hopes the chicks could be saved.

When the eggs arrived at our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center, all three showed evidence that the chicks inside were still alive because we could hear tiny tapping from within. One of the eggs had a tiny hole showing that chick was starting to hatch. We placed the eggs in our egg incubator, but grew concerned after a few hours passed and they were not making any progress hatching. Taking a closer look, we made sure each egg had at least a small hole to allow the chick to breathe.

After more hours passed with disappointing progress, we carefully enlarged each hole a little bit to assist the chicks making it out. We could see that the membranes inside the shell looked very dry and the chicks all seemed less active than they should be. We suspected this was because they were dehydrated due to having spent a whole day exposed to the brutal summer sun. Each tiny beak tip was visible in the hole so we offered each chick drops of water from a small syringe, and each one drank a little. We also dripped a few drops into the inside of the shell wall to help moisten the dry-looking membranes. We hoped they could do the rest of the work themselves.

And they did! All were a little underweight at hatching (only 5 grams!) but are getting stronger each day. Within a day, they had turned into adorable fluffballs walking and running a round. All three of these adorable youngsters are just about ready to be released!

One of the Western Snowy Plovers hatched from abandoned eggs. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue