The 2 chicks, who are growing at an astonishing rate, have become much more active over the last couple of days. You can now see them exploring the eyrie and they have started to preen themselves. This latter activity is likely due, to the first of the juvenile feathers beginning to come through that fluffy down. The chicks actually declined food at one point today, a sure sign they are well fed and the adults are providing their needs.
I was asked today whether I am disappointed with ‘only’ 2 chicks this year. My answer to this was: The most important thing is the number of peregrines which reach breeding maturity. You may have a pair who raise 4 chicks, but the chicks could have been fed proportionally less and are weaker on fledging, if they all make it that far.
It has been shown chicks who have been ‘stressed’ during development due to lack of food, are weaker throughout their lives. Even if they reach breeding maturity they may be unable to attract a strong mate or claim a good territory. A peregrine with the most ‘attractive’ mate and territory can raise more chicks themselves!
It is harder for an older pair to raise 4 fit and healthy chicks. We may only have 2 chicks in the nest this year, but if they continue to be fed at this rate they will have the best possible start in life. This will vastly increase their chances of survival. The parents can also concentrate their efforts on the 2 fledglings when training them to hunt in July/August. It is all about getting the best upbringing!
The adults continue to interest me with their behaviour. The tiercel brought a starling straight into the nest today before plucking it. This is unusual, as it is thought to be usually avoided due to the feathers containing parasites. He then started to hurriedly pluck it on the ledge, but the falcon flew in from high in the oak tree to take the starling away to be prepared correctly!
I can only speculate at the reason for the tiercels behaviour. Maybe he hadn’t seen the falcon sat high up in the tree. He possibly wanted to make the most of her absence and have a chance to feed the chicks and himself, without the prey being taken from him. He would therefore have rushed to the ledge. It his possible he just got a bit over excited with the situation! Another theory would be that he had seen the female and wanted her to come and pluck the prey, so he could quickly go out hunting again.
The falcon shows differing behaviour each day, if she was a person you would say she had mood swings! The tiercel was plucking a starling he had caught today, and the falcon seemed very impatient with him and went to grab the food. It was unusual by the fact she then proceeded to sit with the starling in her talons for 5 minutes calling. The tiercel (probably wisely) went to sit on a perch well away from her. I couldn’t help but think the whole process would have been quicker had she just let the male finish plucking the prey and bring it to her at the eyrie! Other times she will sit and wait for him to bring the prey to her. This may include the tiercel feeding the falcon and the chicks (the latter under close supervision!).
Another unusual piece of behaviour by the falcon occurred later this afternoon. She caught and then fed the chicks (and herself) a pigeon, which she took to a larder as she often does. I presumed that the 3 of them were all full. She then quickly returned however, with a different carcass (a smaller bird) and continued to feed the chicks and again? Answers on a postcard please! The only thing I can think of, is that she remembered there was an older prey item that should really be eaten first. Maybe the falcon wanted to save much of the fresh juicy pigeon for herself!
I am going away for the next week, so I will be leaving the blog in the very capable hands of my colleague Rhian. I will return to see the chicks through their last couple of weeks on the ledge!
How time flies.
Bye for now,
Tom Wells – Peregrine Protection Officer