Feb 14 2008

Raptors in Love

Published by at 1:38 pm under Peregrines

Dorothy and Erie bow in courtship, Pittsburgh 2003It’s Valentine’s Day and all across America lovers are giving gifts and going out to dinner.

Even though it doesn’t feel like spring, the birds of prey are courting too.

Birds time their egg laying so that their babies are born when the most food is available.  For peregrines, who eat birds, hatching occurs during spring migration when thousands of songbirds are passing through.   For red-tailed hawks, who eat rodents, their babies hatch when the year’s first mice, chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits have left the nest.

To get the hatching time right, peregrine egg laying has to happen in late March in Pittsburgh so February is courting time.

Pictured here are Dorothy and Erie in a uniquely peregrine courtship ritual. They bow low toward each other over the scrape – where Dorothy will lay the eggs – and they make a creaking call to each other.  Peregrine females are larger than males, so Dorothy is the one on the left.   This falconcam photo is from 2003, but peregrine pairs do this every year.

Raptors have other courting rituals amazingly similar to those of humans.

People court by walking hand-in-hand.  Raptors court by flying together. Today our local red-tailed hawks did some courtship flying over Central Catholic High School.

Just as men take their wives out to dinner, the male raptor catches prey and offers it to his lady.  Often, after she eats as much as she wants he finishes the feast.   Many humans reverse this when the wife eats off the husband’s plate because she “doesn’t want any dessert.”

Soon I will participate in the dessert exchange ritual.  I’m a wife.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Raptors in Love”

  1. Amy Cushon 14 Feb 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Hello again,

    I just wanted to write and say how much I enjoy reading your entries. I did a random search for a local bird watcher that day I spotted the bald eagle and I came across you and this lovely site.
    I love birds. I did a class with Chuck Tague years ago, but haven’t kept up with classes or outings.I’ve been quite the amateur for years, but reading your entries gives me these great little morsels to take with me. Thanks for your passion and your writing. I’m hoping to join the Three Rivers Birding Club this spring and get more involved.
    Thanks again.
    I haven’t seen the eagle again, but I always have my binos ready in case he/she flies by.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Amy

  2. Dianne Drishon 05 Mar 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Glad to come uppon your blog. I just recently found out about the nest and am so very pleased. Thank you for your vilgilence. I wanted to pass on another wonderful website palemale.com from New York Central Park. I look at this website every day because the author is a wonderful photographer and shares as much passion and protection of the 2 red tailed hawks he loves, “Palemale” and “Lola” Enjoy!

  3. Marilyn Terrellon 05 Mar 2008 at 5:10 pm

    My falcon-loving daughter in Pittsburgh told me about the peregrines and took me to the top of the Cathedral of Learning when I came to visit. I love your blog and love knowing the histories of the two birds Erie and Dorothy. Long may they live and procreate!

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