Having now trebled their body weight over the last three weeks, the guillemot chicks at Durlston Country Park have just begun to jump off the ledge and into the sea.
This is the latest stage in their development as they start to become independent from their parents.
The guillemot chicks make the hazardous leap off the cliff ledge down into the sea below
“It’s an amazing leap of faith”
Ranger at Durlston Country Park, Ali Tuckey said:
“The guillemot parents by this stage are really frazzled, having spent all their energy stuffing their chick with fish and so it’s really time for the chick to leave the cliff ledge. To do this, they just jump off the ledge, bustling with all the other guillemots – it’s an amazing leap of faith down to the sea. Usually, the father will fly down to the sea and call to the chick to jump.
“It can be quite a vulnerable time for the chicks as the Great Black Backed gulls eagerly watch them as they jump, hoping they may be able to swoop down and have a chick for breakfast. These gulls, which are endangered themselves, are scavengers and have to eat too – it’s all part of the ecosystem. However, happily the vast majority of the chicks will survive.”
The chick won’t return to land for about five years
The guillemot chick’s father will spend a couple of weeks in the sea, teaching it to swim. After that the chick won’t return to land for about five years until it becomes an adult and returns itself to the land to breed.
Ali Tuckey added:
“By the second week of July, all the chicks will have jumped and the parents will have swum out to sea. What was a noisy, smelly and bustling cliff ledge in Durlston, will become eerily quiet until it’s the breeding season again and it all starts once more.”