Archive for the 'Nesting & Courtship' Category

May 15 2013

We Three … Are Actually Four

Three peregrine chicks visible at the Downtown Pittsburgh nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

Yesterday morning three peregrine chicks hopped all over the place at the Downtown Pittsburgh nest.

Thanks to Donna Memon for capturing this image at just the right moment!

 

UPDATE ON THURSDAY MAY 16:

Aha!  I love to be proved wrong when the news is happy!  There are FOUR chicks in the Downtown nest.  Thanks to Nathalie Picard for alerting me.  Here’s a screenshot:

Four chicks at the Downtown peregrine nest  (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

4 responses so far

May 12 2013

Happy Mothers’ Day

Dorothy and Baby, 8 May 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy and her chick have been emblematic of mothers’ love this year.  Above, Baby leans on Dorothy.

 

And here Dorothy watches over Baby as he sleeps.
Dorothy watches over Baby, 8 May 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers, and especially to my own mom who reads this blog every day.

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

3 responses so far

May 10 2013

Mothers’ Work

Mallard with ducklings (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

We tend to think that birds with precocial chicks have an easier time as parents than those whose nestlings are naked and blind at birth, but this isn’t necessarily so.

Ducklings can walk, swim and feed themselves shortly after they hatch but their mobility is problematic.  They have no idea where to find food nor how to stay safe.  All they know is “Stay with Mom!”

Mother leads them to feeding areas and shows them what to taste.  The ducklings peck in the vicinity until they find good food.

Her hardest responsibility is protecting them from danger.  Baby ducklings are tasty morsels for raptors, minks, cats, dogs, large fish and snapping turtles.  If you watch a mallard family day to day you’ll notice the number of ducklings decreases over time.  Mom does her best but danger lurks.

This mother mallard has had pretty good success so far.  Out of 8 to 13 eggs she still has six chicks.

Until they can fly she has mothers’ work to do.

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original. Today’s Tenth Page is inspired by page 483 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.)

One response so far

May 09 2013

How Many Nestlings?

 

Downtown Pittsburgh peregrine nest (photo by Christopher Rolinson)

Now that the falconcam is running and the peregrine chicks are mobile we’ve been trying to count white, fluffy heads.  How many chicks are at the Downtown Pittsburgh peregrine nest?

A week ago Chris Rolinson, associate professor of photography and photojournalism at Point Park University, set up a time-lapse camera to take snapshots of the nest.  Many hours later he retrieved the camera hoping for lots of peregrine activity, but they did not oblige.  On the other hand, he captured a really clear shot of one of the parents, a chick, and a prey item at the ledge edge.  Click on the image above for a larger view.

The falconcam also takes snapshots but it sways in the wind so most of its images are blurs of the facade.  Yesterday there were three tantalizing photos.

Here a chick traveled closer to the nest opening.  He looks pretty big.

Peregrine chick walks to the front (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

And around one o’clock they lined up so we could count heads.  In the marked up snapshot below there are three peregrine chicks facing us.

Three chicks visible, Downtown nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

A few minutes earlier there may have been a fourth with his side to the camera and his face hidden by the wall.  His nearest sibling appears to be looking at him.  (Notice that his location is dark-colored in the image above.)

Possibly four chicks visible, Downtown nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

 

So how many chicks do Dori and Louie have?  Certainly three, perhaps four.

Watch the Downtown Pittsburgh falconcam and tell me what you think.

 

p.s. We’re looking forward to more from Chris Rolinson when the chicks are more active.

 

(photo at top by Christopher Rolinson.  Time-stamped photos are from the National Aviary falconcam at Point Park University)

8 responses so far

May 06 2013

Downtown Peregrines On Camera At Last

Downtown Pittsburgh Peregrines website at the National Aviary

It’s been two years since we’ve seen Pittsburgh’s Downtown peregrine family on camera.

Louie and Dori used to nest at the Gulf Tower where we had a great close-up view of their activities but in 2012 they abandoned Gulf for a building on Fourth Avenue.  They’ve nested in the same place this year but I was unsuccessful in finding the proper contact to permit a camera.

It looked like we’d have another year without a view of the Downtown pair until Amanda McGuire came to the rescue.   She works for Point Park University and her balcony is Louie and Dori’s favorite perch during the nesting season.  I was excited when Amanda said, “I think we can put a webcam on my balcony” so I began a flurry of email to put everyone in touch with each other.

Amanda made all the arrangements with Point Park, Bill Powers of PixController donated his time and equipment, and Point Park University donated the camera location and Internet access.  It all came together when Wildearth began streaming and the National Aviary put the Downtown peregrine page on their website.

The webcam is located here on the National Aviary website or by clicking on the image above.  That’s Dan Costa’s photo of Dori on the splash-screen.

When you watch the webcam, keep in mind that it’s a block away from the nest so you’re seeing an exterior view without sound and nightlights.  Bright sunlight hides the interior space so you’ll find that best viewing is during cloudy days or at dawn and dusk.

The image below shows the nest opening with Louie perched on the left while it rained Monday evening, April 29.  Yes, Louie matches the building.

Downtown falconcam view with Louie at left, 29 April 2013 (photo from the Downtown falconcam at Point Park University)

Here’s a marked up snapshot that describes what you’re seeing.

Description of Downtown falconcam scene (snaphot from the Downtown falconcam at Point Park University)

By now Louie and Dori’s chicks are moving around the nest and visible in the back corner.  They’re white and fluffy but will turn brown as they grow their juvenile feathers.  Fortunately they’ll move to the front of the nest opening as they grow up.

Around June 1 they’ll attempt their first flight and leave the nest, so now’s the time to watch.  Click here or on the image at top to see them on the National Aviary website.

 

(images from the National Aviary’s Downtown Pittsburgh Falconcam)

p.s. Yes, this temporary camera is blurry.  We’ll have something better next year.

p.p.s. Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook group have been watching this cam for several days and have captured snapshots of Dori and Louie in the nest area.

2 responses so far

May 03 2013

Touching

Dorothy touches beaks with her nestling  (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

With only one nestling, Dorothy and E2 are spending lots of quality time with their only chick.

Above, after puttering around the edge of the nest Dorothy returns to the center and touches beaks with Baby.

 

Later, E2 takes over nest duty.  He and Baby gaze into each others’ eyes.
E2 and Baby have a long look (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

And they touch beaks, too.
E2 and Baby touch beaks (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

In a large brood these moments are fleeting.  We’re getting a new look at peregrine family life this year.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

5 responses so far

May 03 2013

Incubation Chamber

Egg illustration by Stuart Lafford from Michael Walters Birds' Eggs, published by Dorling Kindersley

Last week we examined a newly laid bird’s egg.  This week things get more complicated.

Eggs are tiny incubation chambers with all the tools needed to transform an embryo into a baby bird.  The right temperature gets the process rolling.

As an egg is incubated the embryo changes and the membranes take on the critical functions of respiration, circulation and excretion.   The yolk and albumen shrink as they’re consumed and the shell participates in respiration and bone construction.

This illustration by Stuart Lafford, from Birds’ Eggs by Michael Walters, shows what’s going on inside.

  • The embryo, surrounded by the amnion, floats in a fluid cushion.
  • The yolk is attached to the embryo’s belly and shrinks as its food is consumed.
  • The allantoic sac acts like a sewer collecting excretion from the embryo.  It also functions in respiration because it’s pressed against the chorion for air exchange.
  • The chorion supports all the embryonic structures and acts like a lung, exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide through the shell’s pores.
  • The shell thins as the baby bird takes up calcium to construct its bones.  The thinning allows for increased air exchange so the growing embryo receives more oxygen.  It’s also easier to break the thinner shell at hatch time.

In a matter of weeks the egg contains a baby bird … and then he breaks the shell.

The egg has fulfilled its role as an incubation chamber.

 

(illustration by Stuart Lafford from Birds’ Eggs by Michael Walters, published by Dorling Kindersley, 1994, used by permission. Click on the image to visit Stuart Lafford’s website. This “Tenth Page” article is inspired by page 425 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.)

No responses yet

May 02 2013

Almost Too Big To Brood

You're almost too big to brood (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

Yesterday we got a glimpse at how much Dorothy and E2′s chick has grown in the six days since he hatched.

Above, he doesn’t seem to fit under Dorothy.

He likes to play peekaboo.

Dorothy with her chick peeking out from under her (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

And he draws a crowd at suppertime.  Thanks to @PittPeregrines for capturing this snapshot.

Family portrait, Dorothy, E2, Baby (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

 

Baby is almost too big to brood.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

2 responses so far

Apr 29 2013

Things Are Getting Back to Normal

E2 removes the dead chick from the nest (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

In this morning’s blog I mentioned that Dorothy was still brooding the dead chick but that E2 would eventually take it away for disposal.

Today at 4:00pm he did just that.   E2 distracted Dorothy by bringing supper for Baby so she left the nest to prepare the meal.

In three minutes Dorothy returned with the very large meal.

Baby seems to be saying, “Is all that for ME?”

Dorothy brings baby's supper (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

So cute!

Dorothy feeds baby, 29 Apr 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Things are getting back to normal.

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh)

4 responses so far

Apr 29 2013

What happened?

Dorothy, 1 chick, 3 eggs, 28 April 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Since the news yesterday that one of the Pitt peregrine chicks died and that the three remaining eggs won’t hatch, many of you have asked questions in email, Facebook and blog comments.   Here are some answers, collected in one place.

After consistently raising three to five chicks every season, this year Dorothy has one healthy chick, one handicapped and now dead chick, and three unhatched eggs.  It isn’t the cold weather or poor parental care.  It’s because Dorothy’s getting old.   She’s 14.

Older female peregrines become less fertile.  History at other nest sites bears this out.  In the last two years of Tasha’s reign at the Gulf Tower she hatched 2 of 4 eggs and 2 of 5 eggs.  In 2010, in what was probably her 14th year, Tasha laid two eggs and then was displaced by Dori.   At the Terminal Tower in Cleveland, Tasha’s daughter SW is now 14 and has hatched only 2 of 4 eggs.  A similar pattern occurred at the Harrisburg site when their female aged a few years ago.

What will happen to Dorothy?   Dorothy is my very favorite peregrine in all the world.  I don’t like to think of it, but she is mortal just like the rest of us.  Frankly, it’s a good thing I can’t predict what will happen.  Time itself will tell.  Meanwhile I’m pleased as punch that she’s a mother again and has grandchildren, great-grandchildren and — if I only knew where — great-great grandchildren.  Go, Dorothy!

Brooding the dead chick:  After the handicapped chick died Dorothy drew it back into the nest and is brooding it along with the live chick and her 3 unhatched eggs.  I believe she knows the little one is dead but she’s doing what comes naturally — keeping everything warm until she’s absolutely sure.  I suspect E2 will remove it at some point when Dorothy is away as he did when one of the five chicks died in 2011.

What will happen to the unhatched eggs?  Dorothy will brood them along with Baby until he’s able to thermoregulate and moves off the nest.  Brooding lasts 8-12 days but can be shorter in warm weather.  When Baby is mobile, the parents will push aside the unhatched eggs where they will either desiccate or rot.  Last year’s unhatched egg rotted and smelled awful when it broke on WCO Beth Fife’s shirt during the banding.

Does the empty shell mean another egg has hatched?  No, this is an old shell that is swept from here to there by Dorothy’s tail.

Will the only chick do well?   If he’s healthy, yes.   Baby will get 100% attention from two very experienced parents.  Dorothy was an “only child” and is proof that only children can go far.

 

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

11 responses so far

« Prev - Next »

Bird Stories from OnQ