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.
There has been a family of peregrine falcons living in a Qantas hangar at Sydney airport for decades, it appears, but not until this week has there ever been a problem. An aircraft worker has been attacked and quite possibly permanently blinded after being swooped (that’s the really bad news). A number of media outlets reported the incident but I’ve included The Guardian newspaper’s version as it shows more photos (apologies for the extra rubbish ads and the fact it’s The Guardian; I know some people hate it!!).
I find it amusing that a union member has decided it’s suddenly an “unsafe work environment”, after all this time! The more appropriate approach should have been to warn staff (as they should during every breeding season) of the possibility that the adults will protect their eyrie. The occurrence of magpie attacks in Australia is FAR more prevalent, and in total more damaging, on an annual basis. The difference between a magpie attack and a peregrine attack is that you can hear a magpie coming!! Methinks QANTAS are also jealous there’s a faster creature than some of their planes!!
This is a timely reminder that anyone who wants to go check out the peregrines up the water tower at Orange campus during their breeding season (i.e. Aug-Nov) needs to be alert to exceedingly fast flying objects – wear a sturdy hat, just in case.
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!
It’s getting to that time of the season. And, although it is not possible to really tell them apart at this stage (if ever, if they are same gender), it’s a tradition to give them names. It was decided to call them after our planets. The two most popular names will be used. You have until next Monday to vote.
Here are the planet names:
Mercury, Venus, Earth/Gaia, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and I think we can allow Pluto, too as a minor planet.
1 Mercury = god of commerce, travel and thievery (Roman)
2 Venus = Roman goddess of love and beauty
3 Earth (or Gaia) = old English/Germanic
4 Jupiter = King of the Gods (Roman)
5 Mars = Roman god of war
6 Saturn = Roman god of agriculture
7 Uranus = ancient Roman deity of the Heavens
8 Neptune = Roman god of the sea
9 Pluto (furthest from the sun) = Roman god of the underworld.
Use the comments section below for your vote. I don’t think it matters what name ends up with what gender (and we can always swap later if necessary!).
The Central Western Daily (our local paper) has written an article on our babies. Click here if you are interested in reading this
And Xavier has been a very good father, not just providing food, but also taking over feeding duties to let Diamond have a good fly. He did this twice this afternoon
All is well with our two chicks, but it would seem that we will have only two chicks this year (as with the last two years). That makes the job for Diamond and Xavier a bit easier with a higher rate of success of fledging. Here Diamond is bringing in a prey (possibly a pigeon) to the chicks yesterday:
Prey has been a mixture of pigeons (including ferals and natives), the usual starling and rosellas and the odd oddity such as rufous songlark (we think). Many prey hard to identify as generally well prepped by Xavier prior to giving to Diamond.
Doing a bird survey in Girinyalanha (the wooded area below the nest) this morning at about 0815 h, we saw wrens, wattlebirds, rosellas and all the usual suspects PLUS we saw Xavier (a little out of focus, apologies) in a tall eucalypt keeping a wary eye on us:
And while I was doing a survey this morning around the main farm dam (no ducklings yet, at least not here), I took this shot of the tower (the nest box entrance is the other side).
And while we were there, a large kookaburra (the largest kingfisher in the world, not that he bothers to catch fish much), kept us company. Never seen this as prey!
I think next week, we need to consider names for our twosome. We decided some time ago to use planet names, so I’ll put up a new thread next week to that effect. Bye for now.
The second hatching occurred at 9 am on 5th October 2019. Mother and chick both doing well!
Here is a link to the beginning of the hatch:
The third egg hasn’t hatched, and the longer it remains ‘whole’ the less likely it will hatch. Here Diamond is ‘wriggling’ as if she is trying to crack open the egg. Might be a bit uncomfortable for the two tiny chicks, but they seem to survive the ordeal! Video:
As in 2018 and 2017, we may have just two eyases. But I think that’s less pressure for the parents, especially in the drought. One sole chick is not so good as it doens’t have the warmth of the other little body when the falcon (the female) goes hunting.
Xavier is being an excellent father as usual. He’s preparing the prey very well (and making it hard for us to identify the species!) and it’s not just starling, but larger prey just as pigeons as well. Interestingly, Diamond has also left the box to go hunting herself and Xavier has made some tentative moves to brood the chicks. Here is the video of this:
Thanks to everyone’s help on the youtube chat to try and identify prey. An interesting, but somewhat fruitless task when the prey comes in headless, tail-less, wingless and featherless in most cases! But we will perservere!
Talons crossed for a third chick, but two is also a perfect number.