It has been an action-packed few weeks for the NTU peregrine falcon chicks. After spending a week in Dartmoor (me, not the chicks) with little internet access, I returned on May 26th to discover that all four were out of the nest and exploring the surrounding ledge. Most of their down had been replaced by stunning feathers and they were looking truly beautiful and elegant.
They have since been feeding themselves, flapping their wings, spending more time on their own and out of sight of the cameras, but on June 1stcamera one captured something extremely dramatic (and a little bit funny if you keep watching it) which you can view in slow motion here.
As you can see, one of the chicks attempted to fly and ended up crashing into its mother causing them to tumble off the edge of the building! Luckily both were fine and the chick landed on a lower ledge. As the chick had not properly fledged and was unable to fly, it could not return to the nest, however it has been reported that the adults have continued to feed it! Despite this, I (and I am sure many others) have been a little worried about the chick over the last few days in the rain and wind… and unfortunately I have some sad news. After following the peregrine falcons throughout the whole nesting cycle, it breaks my heart to announce that earlier today the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust reported that one of the chicks (I am not entirely sure whether it was the one on the lower ledge) had “been killed yesterday on the road below the ledge”. It is assumed that “it got blown off or lost control of a flight in the ferocious wind we have been experiencing”. Obviously this is a terrible shame as the four chicks were each doing brilliantly, but it is important to know and remember that less than a third of peregrines actually reach breeding age, so the family have still done very well. Those peregrines that do reach breeding age are expected to live for 6-13 years, but the oldest known peregrine was over 16 years old! So let’s keep our fingers crossed for the remaining three!
It is week four of the NTU peregrine falcon chicks’ development and I am honestly amazed at how quickly they are growing! I noticed yesterday that the cameras were off for a while, so knew that it was ‘ringing time’. It was exciting to later read that the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and NTU Sustainability team had indeed finally ringed the chicks and found out that there are three females and one male! To ring the chicks, the team waited for the parents to leave the nest and then quickly fitted a small, lightweight, harmless, metal ring around the leg of each eyas. Ringing birds is essential for bird conservation as it helps provide information about their movements, locations and lifespans.
Some brilliant photographs taken during the ringing process. (Thank you for these Emily).
The images below are just a few stills from the NTU live stream that I have saved. Archie and Mrs P have been providing a constant supply of feral pigeons and other medium sized birds for the eyases and as you can see in the fifth image, their crops have been nice and full. Although one chick is smaller than the others (and has been nicknamed ‘Diddy’ on Facebook) all four are getting their fair share of food… I even caught one of them possibly ‘gaping’ for food whilst both parents were away, which you can see in the sixth image!
On May 13th, I noticed that all four chicks were starting to grow their flight and contour feathers, and yesterday (16th) the new darker feathers were poking through their down quite clearly (image eight). The chicks may have changed a lot already, but we still have plenty of development to see. At this stage they have gained a sharp eyesight and are very interested in anything that moves – whether it be a fly or blowing feather. Their legs are getting stronger and they are a lot more active in the scrape.
In the next week or so, they will lose most of their down apart from a few tufts on their heads (hopefully – for our amusement) and will be showing off their juvenile feathers. We may see them flapping their wings and before long, in week six, the eyases may fledge the nest for the first time! They should remain around the nest-site for a few weeks, during which time they will become adept at flying, pursue other birds and capture their own food, but will still rely on their parents for most of their food. Around August they will leave the nest for good… and I must say that I will certainly miss watching them!
As hoped, today was the day that the fourth NTU peregrine falcon chick hatched out of its egg. I checked the live stream at 13:15 after my sister messaged me about them… and there it was, it had hatched just before 1pm! The male was feeding the larger chicks a feral pigeon as chick number four (being less than half an hour old) was getting used to the world and its siblings.
The newly hatched chick and its siblings waiting for food.
After a few minutes, Mrs P returned to the scrape and I just managed to save a still image of the whole family together! WARNING: Some may find the below image disturbing.
All four chicks (eyases) are being kept warm and fed and are looking healthy and ‘wide-beaked’ this evening. Peregrine falcon chicks eat a tremendous amount of food and if all goes well, this time next week they will have doubled their weight and in three weeks, will be ten times their birth size! I am very much looking forward to following their progress over the next six weeks or so as they rapidly get bigger, grow juvenile feathers and eventually fledge the nest. Once they start to fly they will depend on their parents for a few further weeks to learn how to hunt, so Archie and Mrs P still have a lot of work to do… and we still have a lot of great things to watch!
All stills taken from camera two of the NTU live stream.