High-flying families
Wednesday March 13th 2013, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Meanwhile, in falcon land…

There was a known peregrine nest inside one of the hangars at San Francisco airport. This was great, because airports sometimes hire falconers as a benign way to scare off birds from the runways and theirs had simply arrived of their own. I heard about them last year if not before.

And then this happened, and I quote:

“We don’t really know how that falcon came to be injured,” (airport sportsman) Yakel said. He maintains that the airport has no record of anyone on staff shooting any type of bird that week, including the falcon.

NBC Bay Area wanted to know how it could be that a bird was shot out of the sky over an international airport and no one knows who did the shooting. Are enough precautions set in place to ensure that these live rounds don’t interfere with aircraft?

Does Yakel really want to leave the impression that random people are allowed, rather, to wander in restricted space, unrecorded and unnoticed, to shoot at whatever wherever? It’s like we teach our kids: the lie and its trajectory are always far worse than the goof you’re trying to cover up.

Glenn Stewart is working on trying to rehabilitate the shot peregrine now known as SFO. He can fly a bit, a huge improvement, but not well enough to survive in the wild yet.

And in the more natural world, there was a talon-to-talon battle for territory and the female on the PG&E building in San Francisco has been seen no more. The male has been trying to incubate the eggs alone, while having to catch, pluck, and eat his food, and the presumable winner of the battle is a female whom he gradually accepted over several days and now allows near the nest. She’s even tried out this sit-on-those-eggs thing–but they’re out of sync: he’s not mating with her because he’s too busy trying to hatch his offspring, and while peregrines do readily take to fostering others’, not having mated, quite possibly ever, her hormones haven’t kicked in to tell her what to do or even to be able to do it. She hasn’t developed a brood patch: an area where the feathers fall out and the skin swells with blood to make the warmth available to the eggs as the parent snuggles down over them.

She scoots the eggs around randomly. The male brings them back in a circle. She has tried settling down over them, but it hasn’t lasted for long and she knocked one out of the nestbox. Oops. She looks at them and gives them a teenager’s noncommittal shrug and takes off.

Time will tell, but it looks like this clutch will fail and then perhaps they will make a second one together. It was laid a full month earlier than the first set to appear on that building back when the nestbox began, so there’s plenty of time in terms of the season.

This is all new stuff: as Glenn says, there is nobody now alive from the last time there were enough peregrines still alive to actually have to fight it out much over territorial spaces. We have some nest cams and so our knowledge of the species increases.  Viewers at home tuning in at chance times have filled in some of the gaps of the narrative not just of this nest but of the species as a whole: someone was recounting today a widowed male in another state who tried, for 100 days he tried but the eggs had been allowed to cool just enough just too many times and at last with the season changing he gave in to reality.

Meantime, our San Jose nest had the male ousted by a young male near the end of the egg laying last year, and Fernando had no idea at first how to incubate or what he was supposed to do, even with mating going on, and he left most of all that to Clara but he fed her and did a great job later of teaching her offspring to hunt and fly and soar in the skies.

This year, he’s got the hang of this whole egg thing going on and they are much more a pair.

3 Comments so far
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No way. I don’t believe a shot was fired at the airport and no one knows about it… yay for falcon advocates!

Comment by Channon 03.14.13 @ 7:01 am

I suppose they know, but aren’t saying. In the meantime, these teen age falcons are getting in over their heads – er – beaks.

Comment by Don Meyer 03.14.13 @ 8:45 am

It seems to be hard for all sorts of young couples to make a go of it. I’m glad the falcons have a human family that cares.

Comment by twinsetellen 03.17.13 @ 1:37 pm

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