Lawrence Peregrines: feeding time!

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

The three chicks started off the morning under fair skies, calm winds, and temp at 56F.  The forecast for the day ahead calls for partly sunny, with a high near 61. East wind 3 to 8 mph.  Had nice looks at morning feeding session just after 5:30 AM, and the three chicks were very hungry and eager to gobble up the offered prey from the female.  The fourth and final egg remains unhatched.  Hopefully it will hatch some later today!

2018.0516-001Most brooding of the small young is performed by the female, though the male occasionally takes short turns.  No attempt is made to share brooding simultaneously.  Apart from weaker motivation for brooding, a male still has greater difficulty in covering a full brood of chicks than a clutch of eggs. Although the actions of the brooding falcon are essentially similar to those of an incubating bird, there are slight and gradual adjustments appropriate to the change of covering delicate but growing nestlings.  Leaning forward and stepping around gradually cease, but shuffling movements become important, evidently to place the feet below the chicks.  Rocking stops on hatching, and other settling motions are replaced by gentle lowering of the body onto the nestlings.

Literature cited:

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

Lawrence Peregrines: #3 Hatch!!

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

2018.0515.2-001Had a nice chance to watch the peregrine chicks at noon today.  Hoping to get a glimpse under the incubating female for an update on number of hatchlings.  At this point almost 48 hours has passed since the second egg hatched, and the clock is ticking!  Finally, at 12:05 PM, the male entered the nest box bearing lunch and the two engaged in a classic food exchange.  In the process the female rose up and off the eggs, providing a clear view of the two hatchlings and the two remaining eggs.  It also meant we might be closer to the third egg hatching later in the day.  If we look back, the third egg was laid almost 72 hours after egg number two, so we are right in the zone for the next hatch to take place.

 

2018.0515.3-001Was only able to get a brief look a few times during the afternoon, and each time, no movement off the eggs.  Checked at 5:22 PM while driving home, and to my great delight, the female had departed and the nest was wide open.  A quick survey showed a clump of white in the middle, two broken shell halves nearby, and what looked to be a final intact shell in the foreground…the third chick had hatched and joined the brood.

 

 

2018.0515.4-001A few moments later, the female arrived into the nest box bearing prey and she started to feed the three chicks!  What a beautiful sight!  The tenderness and care that the female shows while feeding these little ones is so very special.  She is turning her head and craning her neck so that the little chicks will receive the food that they need and that will help them grow!

 

 

2018.0515.5-001The last image, and perhaps, favorite of the day, shows the three little newly hatched chicks eagerly stretching their necks forward and gaping tier mouths to receive the fresh pray from mother bear.  Given the amazing process of carefully incubating these eggs over the last month, we now have front row seats to watch this year’s family start their lives with love, care, and tenderness from very attentive parents!  This truly is the circle of life in the animal kingdom and it is always a precious sight to behold!

 

 

Literature cited:

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

Lawrence Peregrines: third hatch?

May 15, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

Just before 6 AM, the peregrines started the day with fair skies, wind from the south at 3MPH, and temp at 61F.  The forecast for the day ahead calls for a chance of showers and thunderstorms, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm after 5pm. Some storms could be severe, with large hail, damaging winds, and heavy rain. High near 83. Light southwest wind increasing to 6 to 11 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

A line of storms will move through between 3pm-9pm, and will likely affect the evening commute. Some of these storms could be strong/severe.  This is the forecast from the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma, indicating the most likely areas to see severe weather tomorrow.  With any strong/severe storm cells, the greatest threats will be strong/damaging wind gusts as well as heavy rain.  As with any thunderstorm, severe or not, lightning is a danger.

2018.0515.1-001The female was seen incubating and brooding first thing this morning.  She didn’t move for the longest time during my morning watch….no way of knowing if third egg hatched?  All eyes are upon the likely remaining two eggs, waiting for them to hatch.  In most years, the eggs tend to hatch close to one another in a fairly well synchronized way, and within 24 – 48 hours of each other.  We have seen the remaining egg shells around the hatchlings.  The adults may move these around a bit with their bills.  They may seem to nibble a bit on the broken pieces, but they don’t have a well developed habit for disposal of the egg shells.  For the most part, the remaining pieces of egg shell will become trampled.  The hatchlings have a delicate white down at birth, with none of the coloration that will come later with true feathers.  They form a feathery white cluster in the first few days and remain in very close contact with one another as though in a rugby scrum!

Lawrence Peregrines: 2 hatchlings!!!!!

May 14, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

This morning started off with overcast skies, wind from the south at 5MPH, and temp at 53F.  The forecast for the day ahead calls for mostly sunny skies, with a high near 75. Southwest wind 3 to 7 mph.

2018.0514.1-001Looks like the second egg hatched last evening!  At 5:45 AM this morning, the female was observed nestled over the hatchlings and two remaining eggs.  One of the little fluff balls was seen peeking out from underneath the mother’s protective cover.  At 6:07 AM, the female rose up, walked to edge of nest box and departed, showing the two hatchlings and two remaining eggs.  She returned within a minute with fresh prey in her talons.  It was a small dark bird, but unable to make a positive identification.

 

 

2018.0514.2-002She spent a few minute tearing off the feathers, and then at 6:15 AM, she started to feed the little ones.  She rips up very small pieces and carefully feed the chicks.  She took her time and the chicks gobbled up all that was offered.  Just before 6:30 AM, the female grabbed the remains in her bill, and departed the nest to dispose of the carcass.

 

 

Now let’s take a look at an overview of growth and development over the next 40 days.  Here’s a bit of what to expect:

At 5 days after hatch, their mass has doubled. The eyas can sit with relative ease, and the open eyes are more round.

At 6–8 days of age the second down (mesoptile or preplumulae) starts to emerge, first on humeral and alar tracts but no down visible on belly at 6 day, although on the legs and belly at 8 days. Also second down is well out on the wings and looks a bit blueish and sheaths of primaries breaking skin on wings.

By 10 days of age the second down is complete and uniform and outer rectrices are breaking skin. At 10 days, primaries growing at 2–3 mm/d, rectrix sheath not yet split.

At 14 days the second down is dense and long, rectrix sheath about 2 mm and typically ninth primary emerges from sheath.

By day 17 the contour feathers start to push out prepennae and only pale (buffy) tips of rectrices have emerged but growing at about 2 mm/d (since day 13).

By 10 days of age the second down is complete and uniform and outer rectrices are breaking skin. At 10 days, primaries growing at 2–3 mm/d, rectrix sheath not yet split.

At 14 days the second down is dense and long, rectrix sheath about 2 mm and typically ninth primary emerges from sheath.

By day 17 the contour feathers start to push out prepennae and only pale (buffy) tips of rectrices have emerged but growing at about 2 mm/d (since day 13).

At 20 days while still with heavy coat of second down, brown contour feathers are visible on margins of wings, tail, and faintly around the eyes.

By 30 days young appears about half down-covered and half feathered; while side of face well feathered, crown still covered with down.

At 35 days while mostly feathered, large conspicuous patches of down around legs, under wings, and on crown.

At 40 days almost fully feathered with traces of down on crown and under wings and outer several remiges; rectrices not fully grown but bird capable of weak flight.

Literature cited:

Veldhuis, Froona, Eyases growth and development                                                                                                                                                                                                                                http://falcoperegrinus-froona.blogspot.com/2008/04/eyases-growth-and-development.html

Lawrence Peregrines: first hatchling!!

May 13, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

2018.0513.5-001Just a bit later, around 7:13 PM, the female came roaring back to the nest box, and she provided a nice opportunity to capture an image of her with talons outstretched while landing at outer edge of nest box.  She then saunters over to connect with her first of the year hatchling.  After the past 30 days of shared incubation duties, through day and night, all kinds of weather and temperatures, and who knows what other kinds of issues and distractions, and with a new mate, she must be pleased to see the first egg hatch and the arrival of the first born….yet again the miracle of life!

 

 

2018.0513.6-001She spends time cuddling the hatchling and establishing a motherly bond.  Typically the female does most of the brooding of the hatchlings as her mate will handle most of the hunting and delivery of fresh food for the little ones.  It is an awesome sight to watch the chicks beg for food and take turns eating every bit of food that will be delivered!

Happy Mother’s Day: 1st egg hatches!!!

May 13, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

2018.0513.3-001As early Sunday afternoon rolled along, the skies went from overcast, to partly cloudy, partly sunny to clear skies and bright sun!  Later in the afternoon, was able to finally get back and check for an update, and WOW…..a piece broken shell was sitting next tot he female…right on schedule….FIRST EGG HATCHES!!  Then, just after 7 PM, the female rose up and departed as the male landed at right edge of nest box.  This was a memorable moment, with first looks at the first hatchling….a little white fuzz ball.

Condition At Hatching

2018.0513.4-001The peregrine falcon eyases are semialtricial, nidicolous; covered with off-white (prepenne) down. Semi altricial means: Covered with down, incapable of departing from the nest, and fed by the parents. In species like the peregrine falcon we speak of semialtricial 2, hatch with the eyes closed.  The bill and feet pinkish to pale gray with eyes closed. They weigh about 35–40 g. If eyes open with food-begging first day, they are slitlike. The eyases obtain 2 downy plumages.

Literature cited:

Veldhuis, Froona, Eyases growth and development                                                                                                                                                                                                                                http://falcoperegrinus-froona.blogspot.com/2008/04/eyases-growth-and-development.html

Lawrence Peregrines: hatch preparations!

May 12, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

This morning the peregrines encountered overcast skies, with calm wind conditions, and the early morning temp at 47F.  The day ahead forecast calls for rain, mainly before 5pm. High near 52. East wind 3 to 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

2018.0512.1-001Just before 5:30 AM this morning, the female rose up off the 4 eggs, and departed out of the right side of the nest box.  Moments later the male entered and settled on the eggs.  Almost thirty minutes later, he became a bit restless, rose up, walked around a bit and settled back down.

Hatching preparations are now underway!

We are almost there. The first egg was laid on April 5th and the second on April 7th. The peregrine falcon starts incubation after laying the second to last egg. So April 10th is the first day. That makes May 11th the 31st day. Incubation usually takes 29-33 days, sometimes 35 days when the breeding couple has left the eggs often. That has not been the case here. Hatching takes about 48 hours from the first pip in the shell membrane until the actual hatch.

2018.0512.2-001In the last 2 days before hatching final preparations are made for a successful hatch process!

* The beak turns towards the air cell.

* The beak breaks through the inner shell membrane.

* The lungs begin to function.

* The yolk sac begins to enter the body cavity.

* The lungs are using the air cell for breathing completely.

* The embryo occupies all of the egg except air cell.

* The neck begins to spasm.

* The egg tooth pips through the shell.

* Exhausted and wet – but alive – the chick has hatched!

There is a lot going on inside. A major operation! How does that tiny creature get him or herself out of the eggshell, out of its tiny sophisticated incubator? That is quite a job and do not underestimate the enormous amount of energy this must take. Making the escape is a process that takes many hours. From the first pip to actually hatching can take over 12 hours!

About three days before hatching, the embryo’s head burrows beneath the right shoulder so the beak is positioned under the wing; against the two membranes separating the embryo from the air space at the large end of the shell. Sometime that same day, due to oxygen depletion, the beak pierces through the membranes into the air space; pulmonary respiration begins. The little chick is starting to make sounds as well; a very weak shri-shri-shri is coming from within the egg. From all eggs that are in this stage. The little ones are telling each other to hatch too, so all of them hatch after each other with a little time interval.

About a day later, with a dwindling oxygen supply, the embryo begins to kick, to twist and to thrust its head and beak backward, until the egg tooth pips the first hole. The chick can now draw breath. As fresh air enters the shell and circulates, the membranes inside begin to dry, and the blood vessels within those membranes begin to shrink.

The embryo continues to pip, kick and twist. Small cracks advance counter-clockwise by millimeters around the big end of the shell. A special “hatching muscle” on the back of the chick’s neck swells to several times its normal size with a great influx of fluid from the embryo’s lymphatic system. Testosterone is catalyzing this. The swelling accentuates sensory signals sent through the neck, stimulating the embryo to further activity. Eventually, the cap of the egg is cracked enough. The embryo pushes it off, unfolds from the tuck, and escapes from the shell.

Lawrence Peregrines: shell breaking process!

May 11, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

2018.0511.1-001As we approach the hatching of the first egg, the peregrines start the day under clear skies and bright sun, winds from the west at 8 MPH, and the temp at 62F at 6 AM.   After a week filled with foggy mornings and cooler coasts, a cold front overnight is changing the pattern for the end of the week.  A few clouds may linger this morning, but the shower chances will be long gone as the cold front will have already cleared the region.  It will be a breezy start to our morning, but the wind shift is key.  The wind direction will be out of the northwest and typically would usher in “colder” conditions.  Farther inland where the seabreeze doesn’t impact the daytime heating, it will feel slightly cooler compared to the last few days.

 

 

2018.0511.2-001Around 5:55 AM, the male was incubating the eggs, and departed the nest box.  About 5 minutes later, the female arrived at the nest box, and quickly settled in on the 4 eggs.  We continue to keep watch for the first hatch!

Shell-Breaking And Emergence

Often chick creates an opening in break-up area around pip before final breaking open of shell begins; then, looked at from blunt end of egg, chick makes a counterclockwise turn inside shell, at same time breaking a line around circumference of egg near blunt end by thrusting egg tooth against shell. Chick turns intermittently, breaking a portion of shell with much vocalization, then rests, and turns again. This last stage of hatching takes 15–60 min. Artificially incubated eggs hatch most frequently during morning hours: 40% of 500 eggs found hatched between 06:00 and 12:00; 24% between 12:00 and 18:00; 19% between 18:00 and 24:00; 17% between 24:00 and 06:00.

2018.0511.3-001Just after 1:30 PM, the peregrines had a changing of the guard and switched places for incubating duties. Back to the hatching discussion….eggs generally said to hatch synchronously (i.e., 24–48 h for clutch of 4) in temperate and low-latitude regions, incubation beginning with last or penultimate egg. On Yukon River, AK, 1 clutch of 4 eggs hatched at intervals of 10, 60–72, and 110 h, for total hatching time of about 7.5–8 d; last-hatched chick from this and 1 other asynchronous hatch died in few days. At Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, staggered hatching was prevalent and associated with 7% decrease in brood size; about half of last-hatched young in broods of 4 died. Beginning incubation before penultimate egg and staggered hatching likely at high-elevation nests, too, as incubation early in laying cycle appears to be response to cold temperature.

Parental Assistance And Disposal Of Eggshell

Adults may remove eggshells and sometimes eat them. Some shells may remain in nest several days until presumably broken or accidentally knocked from nest. Addled eggs remain in nest until ultimately crushed. Some intact eggs from previous year may be found in eyries.

Literature cited:

White, C. M., N. J. Clum, T. J. Cade, and W. G. Hunt (2002). Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.660

Lawrence Peregrines: peeping from egg!

May 10, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

Just after 7AM this morning, the peregrines had overcast skies with fog and mist again, light winds from the east, and temp at 51F.  Once again we start the morning off with some areas of fog and even patchy mist. Yet, once again, it will burn off and we’ll return to some sun today as temps rise well into the 60s and 70s.  Sound familiar? Certainly the last few days have had similar themes as deja vu greats us walking out the door.  While yesterday afternoon was a stunner with highs near 75-80 inland and tons of sun, today, we’ll throw a few more clouds in the mix and even an isolated shower this afternoon, into this evening. 

2018.0510-001Finally had a chance to watch the nest at noon time, and kept waiting for one of the incubating peregrines to leave the eggs to see if the first hatch had taken place.  Finally, at just after noon time, the female rose up and went to edge of nest box, providing a clear view of all four eggs.  Not yet…..stay tuned!  So what happens at this point many have asked.  Below, from Birds of North America Online, is a preview of the chicks inside the egg and thei making peeping sounds!

Preliminary Events And Vocalizations

Few data from the wild. From blind near eyries on coastal British Columbia, Nelson could hear chick peeping inside egg before hatching began, becoming louder during hatch; initial pip of shell occurred more than 72 hours before chick broke free completely. In artificially incubated eggs, 24–48 hours before pip, air cell in egg expands and starts extending down one side of egg toward narrow end; normally chick makes pip inside air cell. In 500 artificially incubated eggs, mean time from pip to hatch was 47.8 hours. During this period, chick periodically works to break up area around initial pip but rests most of time. Human imitation of parental chip call stimulates chick to vocalize.

Literature cited:

White, C. M., N. J. Clum, T. J. Cade, and W. G. Hunt (2002). Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.660

Lawrence Peregrines: how to hatch?

May 9, 2018 in In the Nest Box, lawrence peregrines, Peregrine Falcons Eastern Massachusetts, Peregrine Falcons Massachusetts

2018.0509-001The peregrines started the day under clear skies with a few clouds, light winds and temp at 53F around 7AM.  The photo shows the female towards the end of the while incubating the eggs and preening.

So how do birds hatch?

The embryo has breached the membrane, is breathing air with its lungs, and is head up, with its head positioned at the large end of the shell.

  • Our embryo  uses its egg tooth, a small temporary structure on the op of its beak, to cut through the shell from inside. The eggshell is thinner and weaker than when it was laid, since the growing embryo absorbed calcium from the shell for its bones. The embryo rubs its egg tooth against the shell, which cuts a small hole.
  • As it rubs it rotates its body, slowly cutting a ring around the shell.
  • When the cut is complete, the hatchling bird pushes its body against the shell, forcing it apart.  It works itself free of the shell membranes and halves. Voila – a baby bird!

Literature cited:

The Raptor Research Project, Raptor Research Project Blog, Saturday, March 10, 2012                                                                                                                        https://raptorresource.blogspot.com/2012/03/