May 30 2009
When peregrine nestlings are 33 days old what happens next?
The things you see on the webcam might be confusing so here’s what to watch for as they get ready to fledge:
- They’re still babies and they still do “baby” things. Sometimes they sleep flat on their stomachs and throw their legs out to cool themselves. They look like pancakes. The adults don’t do this.
- Their parents are teaching them to feed themselves and will increasingly drop off food and let them tear it apart on their own. The female chicks are 1/3 larger than their father by now so they dwarf him at feeding time. No wonder he’s thinking of drop-offs!
- They flap their wings a lot without going anywhere. This builds their wing muscles so they’ll be in good condition when they fly.
- Sometimes they flap and run along the surface, just barely rising in the air. It’s like using training wheels.
- They will WALK out of the picture. They haven’t flown yet, they’re just exploring. This is called “ledge walking.” There’s a lot of territory near the nest and they need to learn about it. When they’re ledge walking you won’t see them on camera but they are quite nearby.
- They will perch right in front of – or on – the camera. Incredibly cute.
- At the University of Pittsburgh there’s a perch on the building called “the keyhole” that their parents like to use. It’s just to the left of the camera view. Soon the youngsters will figure out how to jump the short distance from the green perch to the keyhole. On the webcam it will look as if they leapt into thin air but from Schenley Plaza you’ll see that they’re in the keyhole.
- They will walk up the cement pillar at the back of the camera view or hop into the gully behind it. When they do that they disappear from the cam but they still haven’t flown.
- Soon they will find the perfect runway for flight practice which is up to the left of the camera view. They will walk up the cement pillar or jump up to what we call “the nest rail.” You won’t see them on camera but they’ll be easy to see from Schenley Plaza.
Again, they haven’t flown yet. This is “flying with the training wheels on.”
(photo from the National Aviary webcam at the University of Pittsburgh)