Despite looking regularly in the usual roost trees, and elsewhere, Gaia has not been seen since the first week. There is some evidence that she was heard calling a few days after that, but nothing recent. I have not actually stopped looking for her, and unless one gets a report of injury, or finds a corpse, one cannot categorically state that she has died, but that would seem the most likely outcome. She is much too young to have set out on her own.
Even Pluto is not really hunting yet, although we have seen him catch a dropped prey a couple of times, once through the webcam and once in the field (sorry, no photo!). He is a feisty youngster, tormenting his parents (as they all do) for food. Here is seen interrupting his parents’ bonding ritual yesterday with demands for attention, managing to chase both adults out of the box. I think he will do well!
Here is our young male, in a calmer pose.
A few prey have been brought in by the parents (mainly Diamond), including the probable rosella caught by Pluto on 27/11. Here is the clip of that
We’ve also had a mystery prey (actually we have lots of these as much prey is brought in headless, wingless, tail-less and featherless:), but this one was a bit intriguing. It seems to be a medium sized passerine, with narrow beak, plumage dark in colour with a clear patch of yellow and possibly some white on the flank. Nothing springs to mind! I’ve enlisted some local sleuths (Sue and Tiffany) to plumb the depths of their knowledge…
Pluto will continue his training following his parents, who will drop prey to him to hone his flying and catching skills and I expect him to start catching his own prey fairly soon. Last year the youngsters took cicadas, but these insects come in waves and are unlikely to provide a feast this year. The parents will gradually loosen ties with Pluto until he is independent. This is unlikely before another three weeks and could take longer. According to the literature, once juveniles can catch their own prey, the parents drive them away, but I’ve never observed that. Our pair seem quite tolerant of youngsters, despite their sometimes appalling, nagging and even aggressive behaviour.
Chitra and I are going out in the field again this evening to watch the youngster. I prefer to do this when Pluto is in the box (as he has been a lot this last week, resting during the day and even occasionally at night), so I know that, should I find a juvenile, that is Gaia as they are quite hard to tell apart unless they are together.
I have to go to Sydney this weekend, but will be around next week to keep an eye on things.
As we know both siblings fledged really well and were found together on the familiar roost tree earlier this week. A colleague (Chitra Shanker, a visiting academic, with a very serious camera) and I have been having fun watching flying lessons around the tower and the roost trees.
Here is her picture of one of the adults flying, well beyond my photography skills:
One of the juveniles (we think probably Pluto, based on size) has come back to the box and has been resting during the day. Here he is with Mum, Diamond.
And the next day he came back.
this video shows Diamond leaving when he approaches and some ducking when an adult swoops from the top of the tower.
Here is one of the juveniles (probably Pluto) on the tower roof. Note heart-shaped spots.
Juvenile in dead tree, probably Gaia. But also has heart-shaped spots! Photo by Chitra Shanker.
Have a lovely weekend. Let’s hope some of that forecast rain evenutates.
And to avoid confusion, birds at this stage can be called eyasses, which simply means pre-adult birds, OR fledgelings, which means recently taken their first flight, OR juveniles as they have juvenile plumage. There is no ‘fledgeling’ plumage, so it’s a stage rather than a look, if you see what I mean!
There are other definitions in use eg eyas often means unfledged, but is widely used for all young peregrines in the literature. I’m sure falconers have their terminology as well, but their plumage can be affected by their diet in captivity!
I found Gaia this afternoon. She made her way to the roost tree very quickly (as did Pluto) and with no dramas or help from me, fortunately. I think the parents have decided this is a good area for them for flight practice and steer them here more quickly each year. I think this must have been the easiest year for them (and me!). I’ve included one of Pluto having a poo, as I know that will keep some of you happy.
Gaia fledged at 7 weeks and 1 day (from 1st hatch) ie 43 days. It was quite a good fledge, although she seemed to be on a downward trend to the right, so I think she landed not too far away. I’ve been out with Chitra looking for them both this morning. Found Pluto on the roost tree (not at all bad after such a short time), being guarded by Diamond (we didn’t go too close as I didn’t want to startle him into a flight for which he was not ready). And we found Xavier on the tower, later in the nest box. He didn’t bother us at all, but that doesn’t actually mean Gaia wasn’t close as he is much less aggressive than Diamond. Still I was a bit surprised at his nonchalence as she can’t be far away!
Here is the link to the fledge:
And here are Diamond and Pluto on the roost tree, with some shots of the tree from a distance to give you an idea of the surrounds. Sorry about the focus, the new camera is being a bit tricky and I was a long way away. I’ve compressed the pictures, but haven’t ‘tarted’ them up in any way.
And not to be outdone, here is Xavier on and in the tower.
First fledge of the season and it was, as predicted, our male, Pluto at 41 days since hatching. He flew true and strong and one of the adults followed him immediately.
Here is the link
It shows Pluto getting ready to leave, his leaving (and if you look closely, adult following) and Gaia’s non-plussed reaction!
Here are some screenshots of his take-off.
Here is Pluto, just a day before fledging: And Gaia left behind (taken this morning).
Sorry I didn’t get them together. Some years I’ve managed to get three in a row!
And, finally, here is Diamond’s angry reaction to my presence, yack-yack-yack etc.! She was in a tree just opposite the tower. I am assuming (but cannot be sure, of course) that she is guarding Gaia, not Pluto, as it is unlikely that he would have found his way back to the tower. Nothing surprises me with these birds, however. One year a male landed on top of the tower on his first day.
Await the next instalment with bated breath.
Firstly, apologies for no update last week from me. I seem to get further behind each day! Anyway, a longer one today to make up for it.
Only about a week before the first fledge is due. By my calculation that should be about 13 November ie next Wednesday, but as you guys know, anything can happen. Sometimes one takes off early (usually, but not always, the smaller male) and some linger for days in the box. I’ll be around next week to try and find them after fledging (in case they land in the car park, which happens!).
Note that if you are staff or student here at the uni, be careful as the female may attack you if she thinks you are too near the fledgeling. My advice is to steer clear of the Girinyalanya area after the middle of next week! Or wear a hard hat….
The juveniles at Collins St., Melbourne are five days older than ours and have not fledged, but I expect them to do so any day now.
When they are due to fledge, the parents will try to lure them out and I expect fewer prey to arrive next week. Mind you, that wouldn’t be hard with up to eleven prey coming in over the last week or so. That is a deliberate tactic to make them a bit hungry and keen to come out and explore, so don’t worry if less food is forthcoming.
Now that the juvenile starlings are out, the parents, and particularly Xavier, are taking full advantage of these for the chicks. And they are progressing well towards independence, often grabbing the prey from adult (especially, our greedy guts female, Gaia) and shielding it from the others. Pluto is less aggressive, but is getting his share. Here he is having a bit of a tug-of-war with his sister. There is also considerable wing-flapping going on in the box, not to mention rock-climbing!
Our female Gaia is considerably larger than her brother, Pluto (well named, guys). And was noticeably larger even at three weeks, when they are usually indistinguishable unless they are in the hand for banding when you can measure wing length etc. So a big girl, or small chap! Note also that males mature faster, so Pluto on right has more of his brown juvenile plumage than Gaia, who is still noticeably fluffy.
It’s interesting to ponder why females are so much larger (up to 50%) than their male counterparts. In fact the name ‘tiercel’ comes from the older word meaning ‘one third’ ie that the male is one third smaller than the female. I always thought this dimorphism was because she does most of the incubation, so needs to have a greater ‘spread’. Males sometimes struggle to cover more than two or three eggs. Other ecologists have put forward the view that it is because she can take larger prey (which is true, but doesn’t really account for the evolutionary question of ‘to what advantage’). Another theory is that the male needs to be smaller because he is so aggressive and capable of injury while mating. This is discounted by Derek Ratcliffe (The Peregrine Falcon, 1980) as unlikely to be the only explanation. Perhaps it is a combination of these factors, with the nimbler male catching smaller prey and the larger female coping with the heavier ones, giving them a better spread of species, plus a size difference keeping the male in his place, so to speak. I have to admit, I don’t really think of Xavier as aggressive. He always demurs to Diamond!
The week before last I gave a talk about this project in Sydney to a group of interested Sydney-siders as they have a pair of peregrines using the Circular Quay area. The tour was fully booked, mostly with families which was nice. We tried to find the pair, and their nesting spot, without success, alas, then adjourned to the Customs House where I gave myPeregrine project talk for website I have converted this to a pdf to make it easier to download, but it means you won’t have the videos. Just click on the link.
Now, one of our ‘fans’, Holly, has been making a lot of videos from the live streaming and clearly has a talent for this. Here is her most recent offering
https://youtu.be/a6oM-p8bJuk – 30 Oct Highlights – You can also find her on Facebook and on her own Youtube channel, where she often adds music and other accessories. Many others who follow the falcons do this as well ie have their own Youtube channels and upload videos to the Google Hangout which is linked to the chat. the link to the hangout is https://hangouts.google.com/ then search for Orange CSU NSW Peregrine Falcons.
I have my own channel, too, but most of my videos are related to the research on the diet, so are recordings of prey items that I have not been able to identify. If you have a nose for forensic detail, be my guest and have a go at identifying some! they are all dated and named: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9GrDUyVChN6kYroEWVKmeg.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. Have a lovely weekend.
As one chick is considerably larger, so could be female, we have decided she should be Gaia and the small male chick Pluto. Apologies to those who voted for Venus…. actually, the difference in size between them is more than could be accounted for simply by gender. I’m not sure whether Gaia is just a greedy monster or Pluto a weedy strapling, but both seem to be eating very well, so I’m not really concerned.
There was another milestone reached today at three weeks. Xavier brought in a starling, which was feeding to Pluto with Gaia looking on. When she decided to join the others, Xavier dropped the prey (which was barely prepared) and let them have a go at self-feeding, which they did, with some limited success. Here is a video of that event:
Interestingly, Diamond has also brought in TWO starlings this week. I can only assume that prey availability is a bit light…..tough times for peregrines where a female falcon will stoop to (pun intended) a starling!
I’ll put up my report on the talk on Monday as I my slide reader is not functioning, alas.
We are hoping for a few showers tonight, possibly a thunderstorm. We’ve had a few spits this afternoon, but nothing much.
Here are the names selected: Venus and Gaia. Let’s see if the graph will work. Sadly it doesn’t. But here the votes.
Gaia is pretty neutral, although a bit feminine in my mind. Venus is very much a female. My recommendation is that, if we get two boys, then we go with Pluto and Gaia? Otherwise we stick with what were the clear front runners.
One of our regulars asked for some back-history of this nest, and so here it is.
|2008||Swift||Beau||1||1||1||Very late season|
|2013||Swift||Beau||3||0||0||All eggs broke|
|2014||Swift||Beau||3||1||0||Chick fell out of box|
|2016||Diamond||Bula & Xavier||3||3||3||New male did not incubate|
the story in 2016 is very interesting as the male (Bula) disappeared (presumed dead) just as the eggs were about to hatch. Poor Diamond was frantic and went without food or water for three days. Then she hunted and fed her first check. Then a succession of suitors appeared (including a very young male and a female!, both rejected). Eventually Xavier made his appearance and, although I don’t think she was terribly impressed, she accepted him. He provided very well and all three chicks fledged, but he didn’t do any incubation, brooding or chick feeding (not his chicks, of course). Since then, he has become a model father!
And below are some details of the number of days to hatching and fledging if you are interested.
|Days of breeding event||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019||average|
|Days first lay to first hatch||38||na||36||38||37||36||36||37||36.9|
|Days incubating to first hatch||34||na||33||36||35||34||34||36||34.6|
|Days from first hatch to first fledge||42||na||na||40||43||42||41||na||41.6|
I’m preparing a talk to give to Sydney City Council on Thursday, so it was useful to gather these data together and I’ll make a copy of the presentation for you if you would like.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend and don’t forget to vote for names before 5 pm Tuesday!
First, to say thanks for all the votes. Up to 78 as I’m writing! There will be an extension for voting until Tuesday evening as the notice to our staff went out a bit later than anticipated. We need to give them time to ponder:). You can vote on this thread or the earlier one; it doesn’t matter as I get them all as emails, anyway.
The chicks are really doing well. Despite the drought, there is plenty of prey out there. On one day, they managed between them to bring in 11 birds…. Xavier is still doing most of the hunting, but Diamond has been bringing in prey too (never starlings, note!). Most of the prey have been rosella, starling, pigeon, one red wattlebird and various smaller prey that have given us a bit of a headache to identify. One looked like a bit like a quail. On one occasion both Diamond and Xavier brought in prey within a few minutes of each other. Xavier had begun feeding the chicks (he’s a very good father), when Diamond arrived with a second prey and took over (as is her wont!).
You have probably noticed a change in their down. During the second week a second down pushes through, rather woolly and giving them a rather tatty appearance. Pin feathers should appear soon as they usually arrive at about 17 days. I’ve also noticed a change in behaviour. Most importantly, they took their first walk:
Diamond seemed a bit concerned and tried to corrall them back into their corner, but they were not too keen to cooperate. Eventually they regrouped on their own.
I’ve also noticed, that they are starting to grab at their prey. And that the prey is less ‘dressed’ and ‘prepped’ as they mature. Peregrines need to cough up the indigestible bits as pellets and here is one them having a good old vomit:
I’ve got a very busy weekend coming up, with our music club bbq tomorrow and a landcare event on Sunday, so any help you can provide with timestamps and videos or screenshots of prey would be most welcome.
Have a lovely weekend!