It looks like SW has finished laying eggs - we hope that all 4 will hatch.  Incubation usually lasts 33 to 35 days from the date the last egg, or the second last, was laid. As you monitor the FalconCam during incubation, you will almost always see a parent covering the precious eggs, and you will see a lot of pictures that look like this:

You can find some general information about birds’ eggs at:  

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/nonpwdpubs/introducing_birds/eggs/

A typical day in the life of SW and Boomer during incubation finds SW doing most of the egg-sitting, as the female usually sits on the eggs for most of the day and throughout the night.  Boomer will sit on the eggs for a few hours each day so that SW can go out and stretch her wings and take care of her needs. Most importantly, Boomer will catch food and bring it to SW. 

An important bird activity is called “preening” and must be done to keep feathers clean and healthy.  Volunteer nest monitor, Mr. Scott Wright, tells us, “Feathers are a bird's pride and joy and often they will do feather maintenance before they eat or drink”.  Here is Boomer preening.

Mr. Harvey Webster, of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, tells us, “Even in heavy rain, the water repellency of feathers is very effective. In part, this water repellency comes from the daily preening of the feathers. As the adults preen their feathers, restoring their velcro-like vanes and streamlining their order, the birds will pinch a small nipple like gland above the tail called the uropygial gland with their beaks. This gland secretes a combination of waxes and fatty acids that, when distributed on the feathers during preening, confer water repellency to the feathers. As a result water beads up on the feathers and rolls off the bird's back without soaking the feathers or down”. 

SW takes mini-breaks to preen.  Aren’t her feathers beautiful?

SW and Boomer live in Cleveland, Ohio.  When Boomer is not out hunting, he is always close by watching over the nest.

By the 1970’s, the species peregrine falcon was extinct in the United States east of the Mississippi River, and the species was nearly extinct in the rest of the country with only 39 breeding pairs left.   This was due to DDT, a pesticide that caused females to produce eggs with thin eggshells that would break under the weight of the adults during incubation.  Peregrines are predators at the top of the food chain, and DDT and other chemicals in the environment build up and intensify along the food chain. DDT was banned in 1972, and scientists and citizen volunteers began a long effort to help the species recover from near extinction.  A captive breeding program was pioneered by scientists where peregrine falcon chicks were hatched in captivity and then released into the wild.  In the following picture, Dr. Heinz Meng is shown with the first chick that was successfully hatched in captivity in 1972.After the peregrine falcon becomes a mature adult, it is at the top of the food chain and does not fear other predators, but before chicks learn to fly, the peregrine parents must watch over their young to protect them from predators - especially the great horned owl.   The great horned owl is a very large bird of prey (much larger than the crow-sized peregrines) with a wingspan of nearly 5 feet.  As humans were helping the species peregrine falcon to recover from the brink of extinction, they released birds from the captive breeding program in cities and placed nestboxes on skyscrapers and bridges where there are few, if any, predators and lots of prey.  Great horned owls are not common in cities, but an occasional owl does show up.  Scott Wright, volunteer nest monitor, was told by the Ohio Division of Wildlife that one year peregrines forced down a great horned owl who dared to fly near their nestsite.  When the owl was found on a roof near the nest, it was missing an eye! 

Today, you can probably locate a peregrine nestsite in almost every state.  Why don’t you find a nestsite near you and monitor its activities?

In this still taken from the FalconCam, SW gives us a rare peak at her 4 eggs.

Want to hear what an adult peregrine falcon sounds like? Go to:
http://ohiodnr.com/wildlife/dow/falcons/sounds/adult_peregrine.mov

To watch the falcons live go to: http://www.falconcam-cmnh.org/news.phpOur thanks to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for sponsoring the FalconCams and for the still.

For more about falcons, go to:  http://raptorsinthecity.org/

 

The photo of the great horned owl is courtesy of the National Park Services.  Other photos are courtesy of Scott Wright, volunteer peregrine nest monitor.  They may be used by children for school and/or personal projects, but please give Mr. Wright photo credit.  All others must contact Mr. Wright directly for permission to use his photos.

 

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