Its been another exciting and anxious week at the peregrine watch. Its seemed last week that if the the pair where going to try nest again this season they where favoring an alternate ledge last used in 2008 and previously in 2005. However, as I finished writing last weeks blog the pair had just started to perform a courtship display on another possible ledge, this one last used in 2011.
Courtship and pair bonding displays are performed both by the tiercel and falcon. As with many birds courtship can be a complex and fascinating affair. For me peregrine courtship is broken down into three parts. Ledge displaying, nest scraping and finally and most significantly; mating.
Since the adults abandoned the egg just over a week ago we have seen the tiercel instigate courtship by enticing the falcon onto three potential nest ledges. He has done this either through bringing in prey and transferring it to her on the potential eyrie. This act is often following by mutual ledge displays. Ledge display consist of either of the pair or mostly in our case, both birds bowing to each other on the ledge. The tiercel often performs an extremely low head bow with both birds giving a constant “ee- chupping” call to each other.
Yesterday the birds perform this display for 10 minutes occasionally touching beaks as the bowed, this was quite a tender moment to witness and a privilege to see. Normally this kind of behavior is performed pre-breeding season in Late February to early March and is often concluded by the time the peregrine watch officially opens at end of March.
Ledge display is often followed by nest scraping on the displayed ledge, again this can be performed by both birds. Scraping is when adult bird lies belly down (same position as incubating) on the ledge and pushes the earth out for under them with their legs. Peregrines will have several potential scrapes on various ledges, but it is the falcon who have final say on which she will laid her eggs that season.
Of course we wont get any more eggs until we get the third and final stage of courtship; copulation. It may be another week or two before the falcon makes her decision on which ledge she prefers, they are all notorious for change there mind at last minute as well. Once eyrie is chosen it is only then that I would expect them to consider mating. The male will need to be hot on his wings hunting and bring in larger prey for the falcon, demonstrating his hunting and provider prowess and putting her in the best mood possible before he even thinks about attempting to try mate with her. Id recommend pigeons there her favorite.
In other raptor breeding news, things are looking more on schedule for the infamous ospreys at Loch of Lowes as they now have the first hatched chick of the season.
I’m away for a week now, but I’m sure the rest of the ranger team will keep you posted of all things peregrine whilst keeping a watchful eye while I’m away.
Fingers crossed for good news.
Adam Murphy – Peregrine Ranger