Posted by: grperegrines | 04/02/2021

4/2/2021: 4th egg arrived yesterday

Sorry for the late announcement. The 4th egg was seen for the first time shortly before 9am yesterday (Thursday, April 1). I think it was likely laid hours earlier, since dad was on the eggs before the big reveal. While 4 is the average clutch size for peregrines, it is possible for there to be a 5th egg. If one hasn’t appeared by the end of Saturday, it likely won’t.

I think full incubation did start after the 3rd egg, on Tuesday, March 30th. Hatching generally begins 33 – 35 days after incubation starts, so by my math, that means May 3rd would be probably be the earliest we could expect to see chicks.

Posted by: grperegrines | 03/30/2021

3/30/2021: 3rd egg

I got my first glimpse of egg #3 about 8:30am this morning. It was laid sometime after 8pm last night. Egg #4, if there is one, should arrive Thursday morning.

The adults were on the eggs more yesterday because it was colder. It will be interesting to see if they start incubating full time now.

On a side note, I have not heard of any activity around the Kent County Courthouse nestbox, though single peregrines have been seen on various buildings in the Michigan Hill area.

Posted by: grperegrines | 03/27/2021

3/27/21: Egg #2

A/20 laid her second egg this evening about 6:50pm. Interestingly, the interval between #1 and #2 was almost exactly the same as last year. Egg #3 should arrive on Monday. 33/C has spent a lot of time in the box today – what a protective dad!

Posted by: grperegrines | 03/25/2021

3/25/21: Egg #1 for GVSU

 

A/20 and 33/C have started their first family together!  The first egg was laid about 12:45pm this afternoon.  Eggs are typically laid every other day, so if a second egg is going to be laid, it should appear on Saturday.  A/20 has had clutches of 3-4 eggs, but with a new partner all bets are off.

Please don’t worry if you see the egg uncovered for periods of time.  Full incubation doesn’t usually start until the 3rd or 4th egg is laid, especially when the temperatures are well above freezing.  This is to synchronize hatching so the chicks are nearly all the same size, minimizing competition between them.  Typical incubation time for peregrines is 33-35 days, which is about what it was last year.

The picture included here was captured by dedicated nest cam watcher Hal on Tuesday morning.  It shows 33/C delivering breakfast.

birds and breakfast 3-23

Posted by: grperegrines | 02/27/2021

2/27/2021: A new male in town

Falcon breeding season has arrived! A/20 has been seen multiple times in the GVSU nest box and interacting with a new male, black 33/blue C. (See the screenshot below, captured by Kathy R.) 33/C hatched on the Port Sheldon Power Plant building near Lake Michigan in 2018, so he is a West Michigan falcon! He has not been given a name. (We have no news on what happened to the previous male, R/P.)

It is fairly easy to tell these two falcons apart, even if the bands aren’t visible. 33/C has a much narrower dark stripe (called a malar mark) on the sides of his face, with a noticeable white stripe behind it, while A/20 sports a very broad dark stripe, with very little white. Also note that the female has a number on her blue band, while the male has a letter on his blue band. He is smaller than she, but that is hard to judge unless they are seen together.

If things go as expected, the pair will be in and out of the box, making sure this is their spot for this season and preparing the depression for the eggs. Historically, the first eggs have been laid anywhere from mid-March to mid-April, and generally later for new pairs.

As for the Kent County Courthouse nest box, single falcons have been seen in the Michigan Hill area occasionally this winter, but I have not received reports of them actively investigating the box, or of a pair being seen together.

There is a bit of bad news – we might have to live with the dirty GVSU camera lenses, now that the falcons are frequently in the box. For those of you new to this blog, the link to one of the camera views is in the side bar on the right of this page.

As always, please send reports of falcon sightings to me at malachite16@msn.com.

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.

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