It is falcon time again in Lansing Mchigan. I have been watching for a few days and our resident falcon had her first egg yesterday. Here is bit of Information about the Peregrine Falcon.
The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), also known simply as the Peregrine, and historically also as “Duck Hawk” in North America, is a cosmopolitan bird of prey in the family Falconidae. It is a large falcon, about the size of a large crow, with the female being larger than the male, and with a blue-gray back, barred white underside, and a black head and “mustache”. About seventeen subspecies are recognized, which vary in appearance and range. The breeding range includes land regions from the Arctic tundra to the Tropics. Essentially, this species can be found everywhere on Earth, except in the polar regions, on very high mountains, in deserts, and most tropical rainforests making it the world’s most widespread falcon, and in fact the most widespread bird of prey. The only major ice-free landmass from where it is entirely absent is New Zealand. Both the English and scientific names of this species mean “wandering falcon” and refer to the migratory habits of some populations of this widespread species.
It feeds almost exclusively on medium-sized birds, but will occasionally hunt small mammals. It reaches sexual maturity at one year, and mates for life. It nests in a scrape, normally on cliff edges or, in recent times on tall man-made structures. The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species due to the use of pesticides, especially DDT. Since the ban on DDT from the beginning of the 1970s onwards, the populations recovered, supported by large scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.
Lansing, Michigan is one of many successful Peregrine Falcon nests in our state. Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) is very fortunate and honored to have an endangered species of Michigan take habitat at our Eckert electric generating plant. Our new falcon cameras were installed on February 28, 2008.
Our falcons can bee seen around the city often. Here they are visiting the State Capital Building.
- The peregrine is the fastest bird on record reaching horizontal cruising speeds of 65-90 kmh ( 40-55 mph) and not exceeding speeds of 105-110 kmh (65-68 mph). When stooping, the peregrine flies at much greater speeds however, varying from 160-440 kmh (99-273 mph)!
- Both the adult male and female help care for the nestlings.
- A male Peregrine is referred to as a “tiercel” meaning third. The female, which is slightly larger and more powerful than the male, was preferred, and only she is given the title of “falcon.”
- By 1968, the Peregrine population was completely eradicated east of the Mississippi River.
- Peregrine falcons are about the size and weight of a crow.
- The nest itself is little more than a shallow scrape, shaped by the birds in soil or accumulated debris.
- Courtship behaviors can be seen all seasons of the year but especially during courtship as the mated pair approach and greet each other after being apart.
- When the young falcons are 3 weeks old, Division of Wildlife biologists examine the birds to determine their sex and take a blood sample used to track DNA and possible chemical contaminants. Biologists also equip each bird with metal leg bands that are used to identify the falcons in the future.
- A young falcon in the nest is called a nestling or an eyas (pronounced I-es). They are covered by white down when they hatch, which is replaced by feathers in three to five weeks.
- Prey is caught in flight. Using its great speed, the falcon delivers a powerful blow to its prey with a half-closed foot. It retrieves the dead bird either in mid-air or after it falls to the ground.
- They have very good eye sight ~ they can spot a meal up to a mile away.
- Their range is about 30 miles with their nest in the center of their range. They do not like other falcons within 3 miles of their nest site.
- Use same nest year after year, mate for life.
The Peregrine Falcon is sexually mature at the end of the first year of age but in healthy populations they breed after two to three years of age. The pair mates for life and returns to the same nesting spot annually. The courtship flight includes a mix of aerial acrobatics, precise spirals, and steep dives. The male passes prey it has caught to the female in mid-air. To make this possible, the female actually flies upside-down to receive the food from the male’s talons. The Peregrine Falcon is territorial during the breeding season; nesting pairs are usually more than 1 km (0.6 miles) apart, and often much farther, even in areas with large numbers of pairs. The distance between nests ensures sufficient food supply for pairs and their chicks. Within a breeding territory, a pair may have several nesting ledges; the number used by a pair can vary from one or two to seven in a 16 year period. The pair defends the chosen nest site against other Peregrines, and often against eagles or ravens.
The Peregrine Falcon nests in a scrape, normally on cliff edges or, today regularly in many parts of its range, on tall buildings or bridges. Cliff nests are generally located under an overhang, on ledges with vegetation, and south-facing sites are favored. In some regions, as in parts of Australia and on the west coast of Northern North-America, large tree hollows are used for nesting. Before the demise of most European peregrines, there was a large population of peregrines in central and western Europe using the disused nests of other large birds. The female chooses a nest site, where she scrapes a shallow hollow in the loose soil, sand, gravel, or dead vegetation in which to lay eggs. No nest materials are added. In remote, undisturbed areas such as the Arctic, steep slopes and even low rocks and mounds may be used as nest sites. The man-made structures used for breeding closely resemble the natural cliff ledges that the Peregrine prefers for its nesting locations.
Mostly three to four eggs (range 1-5) are laid in the scrape. The eggs are white to buff with red or brown markings. They are incubated for 29 to 33 days, mainly by the female. The male also helps with the incubation of the eggs over day, but at night only the female incubates. The date of egg-laying varies according to locality, but is generally from February to March in the Northern Hemisphere, and from July to August in the Southern Hemisphere (the Australian subspecies macropus may breed as late as November and equatorial populations may nest anytime between June and December). The female generally lays another clutch if the eggs are lost early in the nesting season, though this is extremely rare in the Arctic owing to the short summer season. As a result of some infertile eggs and natural losses of nestlings, the average number of young found in nests is 2.5, and the average number that fledges is about 1.5.
After hatching, chicks are covered with creamy-white down and have disproportionately large feet. The male, which is called the “tiercel”, brings food to the female and chicks, but the chicks are fed by the female, which stays at the nest and watches the young. The hunting territory of the parents can extend a radius of 19 to 24 km (12-15 miles) from the nest site. Chicks fledge 42 to 46 days after hatching, and remain dependent on their parents for up to two months.
Here she is with her first egg of the year.
If you would like to watch as the family develops
This is a good sign that spring is coming!