Day 35: wing muscles stronger!

June 17, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

Happy Father’s Day!  The peregrines started the day with clear skies, bright sun, calm wind conditions, and temp at 67F. Sunrise at 5:06 AM.  Day ahead calls for sunny skies, with a high near 87. Calm wind becoming southeast around 6 mph in the afternoon.

2018.0617.2-001The chicks are ramping up the wing flapping big time.  At this point in the cycle, they are very active in movements around the nest box, and the biggest priority is working the wing muscles.  While watching them, you are able to get a sense of anticipation, as they ready for first flight.  They were working themselves into a frenzy just before 9AM.  The action was so intense, they whipped bits of down and feather debris into the air around them inside the nest box, as seen in photo on left.

 

2018.0617.1-001On rare occasions male peregrines may take flight as young as 35 days, which is possible, as they are fully developed at this age.  Usually they wait a few more days though, until their wing muscles are stronger through exercise in the nest area, and generally by the time they do take flight they have lost the last tufts of down.  The female continues to provide regular feedings, and you can sense their readiness for the next feeding when then stand and call for food!

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

Day 34: few remaining down feathers!

June 16, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

Saturday morning at 5:06 AM under clear skies, bright sun, wind, temp. The forecast for the day ahead calls for a picture perfect day with low humidity, mostly sunny skies, light NW winds up to 8MPH, and highs into the mid-80s. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 6.15.52 AMApproaching five weeks of age, the chicks are within a few days of being able to take flight for the first time, and the remaining down feathers are usually largely restricted to the lower back, lower legs, and crown. Just before 6AM this morning, the chicks were just hanging out, walking around, and looking out, with some intermittent wing flapping.  Minutes before 6AM, the female arrived for a feeding session with all gathered around!

 

 

 

2018.0616.2It is consistently the rule for male Peregrines, in common with most other raptors, to do the bulk of the hunting while the young are in the nest, as well as during the egg stage.  The contribution to the hunting by the female varies quite a bit, but is usually small, and she spends most of her time near the nest, ready to protect her little ones against predators. At about 3 weeks old the female may do more hunting, and the male amy bring food items directly to the chicks.

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

Day 33: white pantaloons!

June 15, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

The peregrines started the day with sunrise time at 5:06 AM under overcast skies, winds from NE at 6MPH, and temp at 57F.

Scattered showers before 8am. Cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 69. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 6.15.52 AMAt about 6:15 AM, the female landed on the edge of the nest box with freshly caught prey. The oldest of the three chicks grabbed the food and took it for himself.  He guarded the food from the others, and nestled into the cornersDay 33 – ‘the age of the white pantaloons’.  This may happen a day or two earlier or later, but most chicks do go through this phase where they have large fluffs of down conspicuously surrounding their legs, much more prominently than anywhere else on their bodies.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 6.41.12 AMIn this photo, the female returned to the nest box with fresh prey, 30 minutes later, and fed all of the chicks, at the same time. Both adults seem to feed mainly on prey separate from that brought in for the young, though they sometimes eat parts of the same item as the nestlings.  Although strongly motivated to feed the young, males play only a minor part in this role, and researchers have noted that they are sometimes driven away by their mates when attempting to do so.  This may be partly the result of the female’s inclination to take the food from the male. There is likely a great deal of variation, at other nest locations, on how much the male is involved in directly feeding the young.

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

Day 32: more vocal and active!

June 14, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

Just after sunrise at 5:06 AM, the peregrines chicks started another beautiful morning under fair skies, wind from the SW at 13MPH, and temp at 70F.  The day ahead forecast calls for increasing clouds, with a high near 79. West wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph.

By day 32, the patches of remaining down feathers are becoming restricted to the base of the legs, parts of the wings, and perhaps parts of the back, as well as the crown.  They are also becoming increasingly vocal and active around the nest area, to the extent that the adults rarely visit except to drop off food for them.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.46.10 PMAt about 3:46 this afternoon, the female returned to the nest with fresh prey.  The chicks were fed over a 12 minute period before the female hopped back out onto the perch pole, the feeding session completed.  The oldest of the three, has the darkest back and fewest remaining bits of down on its back and elsewhere.  Over the next few days, the wing flapping, and jumping around the box will increase substantially!

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 12.48.06 PMThe second photo shows the nearest chick ducking low and trying to grab the prey, while the back chick is opening wide for a big bite! The calling for food, by the chicks, increases in strength as the young grow, and this call, develops into a wail similar to the parent’s call; and this call can be heard from quite a distance, perhaps even a mile away. Parental creaking noises on arrival with food, increases as the young mature. In the second half of the overall 40 day nestling period, a youngster consumes quite large amounts of food and its intake eventually exceeds that of an adult of the same sex!

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

Day 31: increasingly darker!

June 13, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

The peregrines started the day under fair skies, winds from the SW at 8MPH, and temp at 59F. The forecast for today calls for increasing clouds and scattered showers, mainly after 2pm. The temps high near 77. Southwest wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 5.00.15 PMBy day 31, the chicks often become actively interested in losing their down, preening themselves and sometimes ending up with feathers stuck to their beak as a result.  From the back they are looking increasingly dark, with the wing feathers approaching full length. In this photo, the chick in the back left corner is wing flapping, the others have been preening.  The darker feathers are coming in all over, and the down is decreasing rapidly!

Around this time, a nestling can rip up a prey item quite well, and at 39 days it soon demolishes even intact prey items. At this stage, pray is usually left intact for the young to deal with, though the parent may still break food up into smaller pieces.  There is, however, a considerable overlap between parental and self-feeding, and adults will present young with pieces of torn-up prey until they fledge, especially if nestlings solicit.

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

Day 30: “real” peregrines

June 12, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

The peregrines started the day off under fair skies, winds SW at 6MPH, and temp at 56F. The day ahead calls for sunny skies, with a high near 82. Southwest wind 8 to 15 mph.

tDG8gUf2REWY4Evd5N6L6A_thumb_30It’s often around day 30 that the chicks seem to turn into “real” peregrines almost overnight, very rapidly losing much of the down on their breast, thus revealing the heavily streaked breast feathers they will be carrying for the next year. In this photo, one of the chicks is flapping and the darker feather colors, on the wings, back, and tail are very visible!

Feather ruffling with body and head shaking is now marked and increasing time is spent in exercise, notably walking on the feet and wing-flapping.  The young are now better able to eject their droppings out of the nest box. They present their backs to the edge of the nest box, but are careful not to fall out, and have a fairly well developed sense of the gravitational hazard…..but sometimes, it is…….look out below!

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

Day 29: female leg bands!

June 11, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

Sunrise this morning was at 5:07 AM.  The peregrines started the day off with clear skies, wind from NE at 6MPH, and temp at 54F.  The day ahead calls for mostly sunny skies with a few clouds during the day, but slightly cooler compared to the weekend. Wind will be variable and on the light side. Highs near 70.

2bse3ScOQfG2ToQNf4M4yA_thumb_2bBy day 29, the chicks often have their faces largely free of down, giving them a white-capped appearance.  On their backs, the remaining down often appears to be clumped together in certain areas, with extensive areas instead revealing the dark juvenile feathers, as you see in this photos. The wing and tail feathers are developing strongly and body feathers begin to appear in lines and patches along the back and breast.  Preening becomes a major activity. Note the new leg bands on the female!!

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

Eagle Tribune: leg banding

June 10, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

Terrific article on the peregrines this morning by Keith Eddings in today’s Eagle Tribune with photos by staff photographer, Tim Jean!

Wildlife officials band peregrine falcons at Ayer Mill clock tower

2018.0610LAWRENCE — Squawking, swiping and mad as hell, a female peregrine falcon was scooped from its nesting box in the Ayer Mill clock tower seven stories above the city Friday and placed upside down and head first into a cloth CVS shopping bag, where she calmed immediately.

It was a significant achievement for state wildlife biologist Tom French as she is an adult and therefore much harder to catch and band than chicks. Three of her own chicks would be next out of the box and handed off to the four biologists and technicians at the scene.

French, the assistant director of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife responsible for its endangered species program, has been trying to band this female every spring since she drove another female from the clock tower and took over her nest and her mate three years ago. This time, he was able to block her flight from the box by lowering a sheet of plywood over its opening to the sky, then lift her through a hatch door in the back of the box facing the cavernous chamber of a room just below the clock…..

Day 28: looking darker!

June 10, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

Another beautiful day for the young and growing peregrines under fair skies, calm winds, and temp at 57F just after sunrise at 5:07 AM.  The forecast calls for sunny skies, with a high near 75. North wind around 5 mph.

Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 6.44.35 AMAs they approach four weeks of age, the chicks are rapidly growing their juvenile feathers both below and above, and are looking visibly darker with each passing day. The chicks are nearing the midpoint of their transition from down-covered chick to juvenile-plumaged fledgling, and are nearly full-grown in terms of body size and weight.

Around this time in the growth cycle, the chicks may sometimes join their parents in alarm calling instead of falling silent. They are able to follow the flight patterns of their parents outside the nest box.  They will also become more vocal in calling for food.  As we saw yesterday, they begin to grab or steal the incoming food offerings, and head away from the other chicks.  Sleeping and dozing still occupy a large part of the day, but close huddling begins to diminish.

Literature cited:

Ratcliffe, D. 1993. The Peregrine Falcon. 2nd ed. Carlton, England: T. and A. D. Poyser.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Peregrine Falcon Development – Age Guide; http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/info/ageguide.html

 

Day 27: leg bands update!

June 9, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines

After sunrise at 5:07 AM, the peregrines started off the day under clear skies, calm wind conditions, and temp at 60F. The day ahead calls for sunny skies, with a high near 81. West wind 5 to 8 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph.

2018.0609.1Just after 8:30 AM this morning, the peregrine chicks were laying around and snoozing in a loose huddle.  It is always notable to watch them become alert and ready for a nest feeding.  They rise up, look around, and prepare themselves for the incoming female.  When she arrived back at the nest box, one of the chicks grabbed the prey and scooted off to a corner…a clear sign they are growing and asserting some independence!

Yesterday was yet another falcon leg banding day in Eastern Massachusetts.  Each year, peregrine falcons are fitted with metal leg bands to provide researchers with valuable data on peregrine survival rates, dispersal distances, and population growth rates. The species remains on the endangered species list at the state level, but with about 40 mating pairs of adults statewide, there are more peregrine falcons in Massachusetts than ever before.

We had a nice update on the annual falcon leg banding in Lawrence yesterday from Tom French, who serves as the assistant director of Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDFW) Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.  Tom, and a number of volunteers, banded 3 male chicks in Lawrence.

When the very aggressive young adult female attacked Tom in the nest box, he bravely caught and banded her, too!  In the process of capturing the adult, they broke the unhatched egg and found a two-thirds developed embryo.  As always, they gathered all of the feather debris for further study.

2018.0609.2The standard leg band for Peregrines is a silver metal band issued by the federal Bird Banding Lab. The band is inscribed with a unique 9 digit code that allows birds to be identified during future resights or captures. The photo on the left provides a look at the silver federal band on the right leg. A second bi-color band is fitted on the falcon’s opposite leg and includes a field-readable alpha-numeric code. In recent years, falcons in the Eastern US are banded with BLACK over GREEN (2000 – present). There are also several orientations and alphanumeric character arrangements on the bands. When reading a band, an observer should note the top character and its orientation (vertical or horizontal), the top background color, then note the bottom character code, orientation, and color.

Reference cited:

The Center for Conservation Biology, Report Falcon Sightings, http://www.ccbbirds.org/what-we-do/research/species-of-concern/peregrine-falcon/report-sightings/