In their short lives our chicks have already lived the 4 seasons, they have gone from freezing mornings and snow, to scorching afternoons. Both however continue to do well and we can literally see the down falling off them.
The heat is possibly contributing the current hunting pattern. Prey is mainly coming in early in the morning and late on in the evening. Although passerines (song birds) are generally less mobile in the afternoons, this seems to be more of a factor in the hot weather. This is leading to long periods without the chicks being fed. It is normal however, for the chicks to get larger portions less often as they grow older. Growth has slowed so overall they are fed less anyway. The eyasses are now spending a lot of time preening, the new feathers replacing the down is probably uncomfortable.
When the first of this evenings meals (a starling) arrived, both chicks were clearly very hungry. The chicks, who are both now capable, of at least partially feeding themselves stole the carcass. Firstly one eyas took it from the mother and ran to the corner of the ledge, then after retrieval by the adult the second chick stole it. The adult falcon showed them who was boss though and kept hold of it this time. The falcon should be encouraging her daughters to feed themselves but I think in this instance she wanted to make sure both were fed as the last meal was many hours ago. Maybe due to her clearly very strong maternal instincts, the falcon doesn’t want to let go of her feeding duties just yet!
Peregrine Falcons are famed for their parental instinct. There is reports of pairs which fail with their own breeding attempt and instead take over the nests of kestrels as if they were their own. They are often successful in raising these young. Another example of course, is the peregrine orphans our pair raised in 2010.
The heat seems to have affected the falcons behaviour… this morning the tiercel returned to the plucking branch with a starling. Usually the female would be straight up to take the prey. Strangely though she remained sat with the chicks panting heavily with her wings stretched out. She wasn’t even calling at him, despite the fact he fed on the carcass! Either she realised this time that the male does need to feed at some point, or she was too hot to be bothered to fly to the branch. This behaviour went against her usual controlling behaviour that’s for sure!
The falcon still seems to want to spend most of her time either on the eyrie with the chicks or watching over them from another vantage point. She has spent little time away from the nest and the tiercel is still doing much of the hunting. This is unusual at this stage, at many other peregrine sites the falcon would be bringing in quite a lot of food. She is also still taking food from the tiercel when he tries to feed the chicks and doing it herself!
This evening was the first time I have seen the falcon bring in prey in the last week, she arrived with a feral pigeon, which after a fairly slow day of hunting by the tiercel, was great news for the family!