Mar 08 2011

For You, My Dear

Published by at 7:27 am under Peregrines


Providing food for his lady is an important part of male peregrine courtship.   

At least six weeks before his mate lays eggs, the male begins to bring her food.  At first he may seem reluctant to hand it over or she may snatch it by force, but as egg-laying time approaches she stops hunting on her own, he supplies all her needs, and they add ritual to the food exchange.

One ritual that many male peregrines engage in, and that E2 insists on doing for Dorothy, is an exaggerated plucking display.

When E2 brings food back to the Cathedral of Learning he won’t give it to Dorothy right away, even if she flies out to meet him.  He makes her wait until it’s properly prepared. 

He takes the prey to a cache area, removes the head and wings and makes an elaborate show of plucking it.  The feathers fly!  And he probably takes a few bites to sustain himself while he’s at it.

When he’s done, he presents the food to Dorothy with a bow.  In the photo above from last Friday, she is bowing in return.

The photo makes me chuckle because E2 and Dorothy are breaking the assumptions people make about peregrine behavior.  Ten years ago when I began watching nesting peregrines at Pitt I learned that “The male peregrine will not bring food to the nest until the eggs hatch.  When you see him bring food to the nest you’ll be able to estimate the hatch date.”

E2 doesn’t care about those rules.  There are no eggs yet, but he’s got a job to do and he likes to present the food at the nest.  

“For you, my dear,” he says.

(photo from the National Aviary webcam at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning)

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “For You, My Dear”

  1. Kemon 08 Mar 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Is it just me, or is the resolution on the Cathedral cam not as good as last year? :(

  2. Kate St. Johnon 08 Mar 2011 at 5:57 pm

    The resolution on the Cathedral Cam varies depending on light levels and streaming issues. Sometimes it is worse, sometimes better.

  3. Caitlinon 10 Mar 2011 at 11:57 am

    Is there a way someone could zoom out the Cathedral Cam? It seems like every time I’m on, she’s just out of view. I sort of prefer the still shot cam because it shows more.

  4. Caitlinon 10 Mar 2011 at 12:01 pm

    (Of course, it IS nice to see it zoomed in once the egg-sitting has started.)

  5. Kate St. Johnon 10 Mar 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Tried to zoom it out but it doesn’t go back any further. For a zoomed-out view, click on the still image at the bottom right of the webpage and you’ll see a snapshot (zoomed out) that refreshes every 15 seconds.

  6. Anne Curtison 14 Mar 2011 at 1:29 am

    Dear Kate–I am so sorry we weren’t able to join you on March 7. I agree with the others who say you MUST (please!) do it again!

    I’m putting my question here because it has to do with flying and hunting. Is Dorothy “in confinement” like ladies of old because she is laying eggs? If I see a raptor couple–as I did earlier yesterday–can I assume it’s a redtail or some other? I was in the car and driving, so didn’t get the best look!

    Anne

  7. Kate St. Johnon 14 Mar 2011 at 11:40 am

    The literature on peregrines indicates that the female becomes lethargic and almost appears to be ill (though she is not) during the period while she’s laying eggs. In the days leading up to egg laying, Dorothy would probably stay close to home.

    That said, it’s hard to know for sure what you saw. Dorothy *will* leave home to attack intruders and anything that threatens her eggs (such as other raptors).

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Bird Stories from OnQ