Birds and Young

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Birds and Young

Set: Part No: ST011559
CTO: Part No: ST011560
FDC: Part No: ST011561

Pied oystercatcher Haematopus leucopodus

The Pied oystercatcher is a striking shorebird, breeding successfully on many coastlines around the Falkland Islands. This particular pair has nested in the same area on New Island for many years, each breeding season attempting around four broods.  Two mottled and well-camouflaged eggs are laid in a small scrape on the ground, sometimes the nest being decorated with shells and small stones. As soon as the chicks hatch, they leave the nest with their parents and join them, foraging for molluscs and small crustaceans in the intertidal zone.  Pied oystercatchers fiercely defend their territories from predators as large as the Crested caracara, chasing them off with skillful aerobatics.  The chicks protect themselves by lying low to the ground and keeping still, their own mottled appearance making them nearly impossible to see amongst the shoreline debris.

Gentoo penguin Pygoscelis papua

A gregarious penguin species with a stronghold in the Falkland Islands, the Gentoo penguin forms large colonies made up of smaller satellite groups and typically lays two eggs in October.  Parenthood is challenging for these penguins - the Gentoo’s main predators are the Striated caracara and the Falkland skua, and raising both penguin chicks successfully is not all that common. At sea, the penguins are prey to rogue Southern sea lions as they come ashore from their foraging trips.  The young Gentoos are renowned for their ‘feeding chases’ – the adults run the perimeter of the colony whilst the chicks run after them and only after an extensive chase does the adult regurgitate the food.  The exact reason for this isn’t known.  Once they’re big enough to defend themselves, the young penguins are left alone at the colony, but then must face the predators at sea to find food for themselves as the breeding season draws to a close.   

Black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris

Black-browed albatross nest in dense colonies, usually on exposed sea cliffs and rugged shorelines around the Falklands, where Tussac grass stands and muddy ground allow them to build a large nest in which to lay their single egg.  Albatross mate for life and return to the same nest every breeding season, courting extensively and reaffirming their partnership and their territory.  The pair take it in turns to incubate the egg and travel sometimes thousands of miles to find food for their chick after it hatches in December. The albatross chick remains on the nest for around four months, only leaving once it’s ready to fly and forage for itself.  Apart from the occasional visit to shore, the young albatross will remain on the wing and at sea for up to seven years before returning to its home colony to breed. 

Falkland skua Catharacta skua antarctica

On New Island, where this photograph was taken, skuas hold large territories in which they make a nest and raise their chicks until they fledge.  In other parts of the Falklands, they nest in loose groups where the pairs are quite close together. They are notoriously fierce when defending these territories, and will enthusiastically attack anything and anyone who comes too close to their nest.  Skuas normally lay two eggs and often successfully raise both chicks to fledging, although there is quite strong competition for food (typically Thin-billed prions and chicks and eggs of nesting sea birds) from the Striated caracara.  Falkland skua chicks are quite vulnerable to predators, but use surrounding ground cover to hide from danger. Once they fledge, the young birds embark on a pelagic migration for the winter in search of food. 

Text by Georgina Strange.

Technical details:
Designer & Photographer    Georgina Strange
Printer                               BDT International Security Printing
Process                             Lithography
Perforation                         14 per 2cms
Stamp size                        30.56 x 38mm
Sheet Layout                     10
Release date                     11 February, 2015
Production Co-ordination     Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd