Posted by: grperegrines | 06/12/2020

6/12/2020: Update on juvies

Thanks to Bill and Elaine F and others, we know that all three juvenile peregrine falcons are flying well.  At last report they were still spending most of their time in the area of the Eberhard Center and the GR Public Museum.  Having passed the initial test of learning to fly, they now face the challenge of learning how to catch their own food.  Like many young animals, they will be practicing their techniques by playing games, such as chasing each other and grabbing at leaves and insects.

One of the juveniles, who we still think is the female, has been spending a lot of time on, or near, the ground.  The good news is that she seems to be on the ground by choice, and not because she is injured, sick, or having trouble gaining altitude in flight.  She’s been observed flying up to roof levels without difficulty, and shows no signs of illness.  I have no idea why she is choosing to stay so low, as most peregrine juveniles seem to know instinctively that the ground is not a safe place for them.  Anyway, just seeing her on or near the ground is no longer a major concern.  So, if you see a juvenile peregrine on the ground, watch for awhile to see if it is moving strangely, or is visibly injured, before calling the Wildlife Rehab Center.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/09/2020

6/9/2020: Exploring

In the last few days, observers have been able to confirm that at least two of the juveniles have taken flight.  I’ve labeled one “the adventurer” because yesterday it visited a spotlight near the statue on the North side of the Eberhard Center and then the cement blocks under the Blue bridge.  This morning it flew to the Grand Rapids Public Museum parking ramp and probably was the one seen on a window ledge of the Museum this afternoon.  Another juvenile has been seen on the Museum roof.  Food was brought to the base of the Blue letters on the Eberhard Center yesterday, probably to one or two juveniles.  Without bands on their legs, or seeing them together, it is very hard to determine whether we’re seeing one of the males or the female, though we suspect the one that seems to spend too much time near the ground is the female.  So far, I’ve only received reports of two seen at the same time, but not near enough to each other to tell gender.

As always, please share your sightings with me at malachite16@msn.com.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/06/2020

6/6/2020: All three out of the box

Some time after 8am this morning, the female juvenile left the nestbox to join her brothers out on the building ledges.  I  have not heard a report from anyone that a flight attempt has been observed.  (By the way, I’m basing their genders on their relative sizes – females are about 1/3 bigger than males.)

The best places to observe them now are from the Blue Bridge or the Fulton St. bridge or the river walk on the other side of the river.  Also look for the adults on the blue GVSU letters and other high spots on either side of the river.  Once the juveniles take off, they typically end up on the roof ledges of nearby buildings, like the museum, other GVSU buildings, and even the clocktower or Plaza Towers.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/04/2020

6/4/2020: One out of the box

The juvenile with the least down (probably a male) left the box at some point this evening, while the other two stayed in the box.  He most likely jumped/hopped to the building ledge from the front perch.   About 8:50pm, the missing juvenile came back in to the box. We’ve seen most of the juveniles from this nest come in and out for a day or so before taking their first true flight.  He will get fed, either by the parents where he is, or by coming back to the box when food is delivered there.  Sometimes the adults try to coax the juveniles into taking off by flying in front of the box carrying food.  I haven’t seen that behavior yet this season.

On a side note, their current plumage of feathers and down sometimes make it hard to make out how many bodies are in the box  because their mottled coloring blends in with the bottom of the box.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/01/2020

6/1/2020: Fledge watch starts this week

First, some disappointing news:  The Michigan DNR, the only agency with legal authority, has decided not to band peregrine chicks this season.  My understanding is that this is for all Michigan nests, not just ours.  (Peregrine falcons have greatly exceeded the target for re-establishment in Michigan, so I was aware that banding might not happen this year, regardless of other circumstances.)  While it doesn’t matter to the birds, it does mean that we won’t know for sure if they are male or female, or be notified if they are injured, die, or become part of a breeding pair, once they leave this area.  Second, the sad news: About a week ago an adult peregrine was found near Lyon and Monroe in pretty bad shape, likely from hitting a window.  It was taken to the local rehabber, but they were not able to save it.  It had a silver USFWS band and that number wasn’t in the database for our area.  We have no idea if this was one of the Kent County Courthouse pair or one migrating through.  While adults have been seen occasionally on or around the Courthouse, no chick activity has been observed, so we are concluding that nest failed this year.

On a much more positive note, the GVSU chicks are rapidly developing their flight feathers and are more appropriately called juveniles than chicks now.  They are flapping their wings to strengthen the muscles necessary to take to the sky.  My best guess is that we have one large female and two smaller males, though relative sizes are pretty hard to determine from just the ceiling cam.

The juveniles are 34 and 32 days old today.  We’ve seen attempts at fledging as early as 35 days, but the general range is given as 37 to 42 days.  The males tend to go earlier since they are smaller and lighter than the females.  Most of our juveniles have launched while still sporting visible wisps of down on their heads and elsewhere, but not as much down as I saw today.  All signs suggest we are likely to have at least one fledgling by the weekend.

It is possible that one or more might make their way out of the box and onto the box roof, or the building ledges to either side, before actually flying.  That activity is known as “branching” in the wild.  (For city birds, I think “ledging” is more accurate!)  Juveniles might be in and out of the box for several days before taking true flight.

There are a lot of risks for a young peregrine as it learns how to fly, and more importantly, how to land safely.  It is common for them to end up in unusual places.  However, if they end up on the ground, they might need assistance.  If you notice a peregrine on the ground, let someone from the Eberhard Center maintenance know (the Info Center is on the first floor).  They can contact someone who can determine if help is needed.  As a last resort, leave a message with the local wildlife rescue folks (Wildlife Rehab Center) at 616-361-6109.  In addition (not instead!) send me an email and I’ll do my best to follow up.

Posted by: grperegrines | 05/19/2020

5/19/2020: One lost

Sad news this morning.  One of the GVSU chicks has died, probably during the night.  It was NOT the littlest one.  One of the adults will most likely remove the body at some point.  Unfortunately, we won’t ever know what happened.  There are a number of  possible natural causes, but it is very unlikely that it was killed by the other chicks.  One of last year’s chicks died of unknown causes, too, though it was younger.

The good news is that the remaining chicks are getting their real feathers and growing fast.  They could be taking their first flights as early as two weeks from now!

You may have noticed that the adults aren’t spending as much time in the nestbox these days.  The chicks are a lot more mobile now, and can keep themselves warm. As they get bigger, the chances that they could be too active or aggressive and unintentionally injure the adult grow.  So, the adults will be around, but out of sight of the cameras.

 

Posted by: grperegrines | 05/08/2020

5/8/2020: Getting bigger

I hope you have gotten a few glimpses of our four little falcons being fed.  Mom is the one brooding them the vast majority of the time, and Dad is the one who hunts to bring home the food that Mom divvies out.  Over the next week, as temperatures warm back up, the little ones may not pile together quite as much.  When first hatched, they can’t keep themselves warm, but at about a week or 10 days they start being able to do that.  They will also start to be more mobile and move around a lot more.  I’m looking forward to seeing their big feet and the pink bulges of their crops, just below their necks, that tell us they have been fed well.

You might have noticed some white things bouncing around in what looks like thin air.  I think those are caught in a spider’s web in front of the camera, and unfortunately, we’ll have to live with them until one of the falcons happens to snag the web, or someone cleans them off on banding day.  Banding day is not yet scheduled, and might not happen this year.  I’ll post as soon as I hear one way or the other.

Posted by: grperegrines | 04/29/2020

4/29/2020: And then there were four

Just got my first look at the chicks for several hours, and yes, there are now four of them!  That means they will be similar in size and develop at about the same pace/time.  Here’s hoping for a successful fledge for all of them in 35-42 days!

Posted by: grperegrines | 04/28/2020

4/28/20: 3 fluff balls

4-28-20 3 chicks

10 am 4/29: Looks like Yellow shafted Northern Flicker was on the menu this morning.  Sometime during the night, 3 eggs in the GVSU nest box hatched.  Kathy at GVSU caught this picture of the three being fed this morning.  Hopefully the last egg will hatch today or tomorrow.

Posted by: grperegrines | 04/24/2020

4/24/2020: Hatch watch begins

First, I hope this finds all of you successfully managing to stay at home and stay safe.  Please continue to wear masks and maintain distance when you go out.  It isn’t just about lowering your own risk, but also protecting everyone else, as we can be contagious long before any symptoms show up.

It has been 32 days since egg #3 was laid in the GVSU Eberhard Center nest box and the adults started fully incubating the eggs.  The average range of incubation is 33-35 days, so it is possible that hatching could begin tomorrow.  Peregrines delay full incubation in order to have all of the eggs hatch over a shorter period than it took to lay the eggs.  That way the chicks (also called eyasses) will be more similar in size, helping ensure the chicks are able to compete for food and fledge at about the same time.

I’m looking forward to watching the streaming video of the chicks as they hatch and grow and I hope you are too.

 

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