Ibis pair watched as stork's visit approaches

One of eight mating pairs of Japanese crested ibis on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, has reached the possible hatching period for at least one of its eggs, the ibis center on the island has said.

If hatched, the Japanese crested ibis chick will be the first to be born in the wild in the country in 36 years. People concerned have been anxiously awaiting the hatch.

A remote-controlled camera was set up by the Environment Ministry near the nest, but the camera has been unable to confirm whether the egg has hatched as the camera has been malfunctioning since last Wednesday evening.

"We need to judge whether it hatched by observing the way the birds go in and out of the nest," an embarrassed ibis center official said.

Of the eight ibis pairs that are incubating eggs, this pair--a 3-year-old male and 2-year-old female--is the first to come to term with one of their eggs, according to the Sado Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center.

The pair is believed to have laid their first egg on March 17, the center said. Ibis usually lay four eggs, one every other day, which should hatch after about 28 days.

If the first egg was fertilized, it is expected to hatch around Thursday, according to the center.

As this pair built their nest deep in the woods, it is difficult to observe them. The camera, installed in a tree next to their nest, went out of order Wednesday for an unknown reason, possibly because its cable was bitten by a small animal such as a Japanese raccoon dog, the center believes.

During the current breeding season, 14 ibis pairs--double the number from last year--were incubating eggs by Sunday. However, six have already stopped because of strong winds on April 3 and 4, crow attacks or other reasons, the center assumes.

One of the pairs that abandoned its eggs comprises a 6-year-old male and a 4-year-old female, which the center confirmed laid a fertile egg last year. The center had high hopes for the pair's eggs hatching.

"As the breeding period lasts until about June and most of the birds mate even after they stop incubating, we hope they will lay and incubate new eggs," said Kei Osada, a senior ranger at the Sado nature conservation office.

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