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ASK OTUS Had Alba died a few days earlier, she could not have managed feeding all three on her own, and within minutes of her leaving the nest to hunt for their meals, her chicks would have THE STORY OF ARDEA AND ALBA been exposed and vulnerable to any predator seeking an easy takeout meal. REACHES ITS FINAL CHAPTER Dear Readers, Fortunately, the next mating season, Ardea This is the end of Ardea's story. She and Alba easily attracted another Alba and they nested remained a devoted pair for three breeding together over the next two years. seasons, and each season they renewed their Ardea is now dying. She is in her eighth year affections through courtship, mating and nest- and has lived a longer-than-normal span of life ing. for a Great Egret in the wild. One day Alba failed to return to the nest. I heard rumors he had died in a boating acci- People often ask me if birds are capable of dent. This happened after two of their chicks mourning or if they understand death and had fledged and the third was about to do so. loss. The answer is that birds suffer terribly Ardea could still ensure the survival of the when they lose their mates or when a pair loses a nest. two older chicks. Aging gracefully, Ardea grooms herself in the mangroves. File photo

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