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Peregrine Falcon primer

Yes, it is that time of year and if you are not already, it is time to begin enjoying our Peregrine Falcons.  I know many falcon faithful have been diligently watching our live video feed (click HERE to go there now) originating from the 18th floor our state’s Capitol.  With activity poised to take off (pun intended), I’m providing a brief Peregrine primer, below, on what to expect through the progression of the breeding season.

Peregrine Falcon
The male Peregrine Falcon (19/K) in the nestbox in 2010

A few falcon watchers have already witnessed the Peregrine Falcon adults at and in the nestbox.  This is typical as the bird’s hormones surge and they prepare to mate and then lay eggs.  Typically, the female will lay eggs in late March or early April.  Last year, the first egg did not appear until 9 April.   Like last year, we have endured a relatively cool (cold?) March so I doubt the birds will be jumping the gun and getting ahead of schedule this year.  The first egg may appear anytime.  As we wait for the first calcium carbonate encased bundle of joy to arrive, one thing I like to do early in the season is read the bands on the birds.  There has only been one pair of Peregrine Falcons that have successfully raised young at the Capitol.  The pair  includes the female named Ally who has the band combination A/*Y and the unnamed male who has the band combination 19/K.  This pair first bred successfully in 2005 and has been successful every year since except for one year.   In 2008, the birds had eggs, but they were lost.  Overall a pretty good track record and this pair is starting to get up there in years.  I assume it is the same two birds, but it is always nice to be sure.  If anyone reads the bands, or better yet captures a screenshot where a band can be read, please comment or drop me a note.

male Peregrine Falcon
In this photo of the male Peregrine Falcon standing over eggs, you can read the band combination (19/K) identifying the bird.

Once they eggs are laid, they will hatch in about thirty to thirty-six days.  The young, called eyases, are helpless their first few days of life.  The females stays at the nest the majority of the time while the male hunts for food and brings it to the nestbox.  If things go well, We will band the young birds around twenty days of age.

Peregrine Falcon eyases
Peregrine Falcon eyases

Hopefully at around six weeks after hatching, the eyases are ready to take their first flight.   For a few more weeks they will be dependent on their parents and hang around the Capitol.  Eventually in fall they will disperse and go out into the world on their own.

Peregrine banding 2010
The Peregrine Falcon banding in 2010.  Photo by Scott Taylor

This is how I hope things will play out, but in nature there are no guarantees.  Things can and do go badly and sometimes birds die.  In my view, I think the better you understand how these (and all birds) struggle to survive and pass on their genes, the deeper you appreciate them and what they’re all about.  I will once again be providing updates and thoughts on this blog over the course of the season.  Hopefully it is a fun experience and please feel free to chime in by commenting.

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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