Little Hop-flights do Much to Condition a young Falcon’s Landing Gear

Astrid - with prey, flies back and forth in front of the box
Astrid – with prey, flies back and forth in front of the box
Astrid takes the food from Ares in a dramtic handoff
Astrid takes the food from Ares in a dramtic handoff
Wing flapping is hgihly important at this stage
Wing flapping is highly important at this stage

Two nestlings spent the night in the nest box and the other two (including Spirit) spent the night on the east veranda.  Overnight there was only one food drop by a parent in the hour of 3:00AM. At five o’clock, the four nestlings became active and were moving around freely between the box and the verandas. At 5:30 ish, Astrid came to the nest box and started feeding out some leftover pigeon from the day before. Luna and Max were first in line to get served. Before 6:00 AM, Zander was already doing some hop flights between the perches and the veranda and Spirit returned to the nest box. By 7:00, rain was coming down steady and sometimes hard. At the time all falcons were accounted for except for Ares. Astrid was on a window pillar above the nest. Spirit was in the box the other three were on the verandas. During the rainfall, Zander spent quite a while being very exposed on the nest box’s long perch. After the bulk of the rain passed, Ares showed up with a small piece of food. Astrid relieved him of it and in turn, surrendered it to Spirit. It looked like Spirit then shared it with Max, but we couldn’t be certain from the ground.

Astrid takes food away from the box in an attempt to get the chicks to fly
Astrid takes food away from the box in an attempt to get the chicks to fly
Astrid's novel method of flying and biting
Astrid’s novel method of flying and biting
Sharing leftovers in the box
Nicely sharing leftovers in the box
Ares flies towards the box with prey
Ares flies towards the box with prey

For a while all four juveniles were on the west veranda, which was interesting. Ares came to the box at around 10:30 ish, but he brought no food. Instead he rummaged around until he found a nearly complete bird. It was a cuckoo; he took it, flew over to the east face of the bank, partially plucked it and fed on it some. A little while later he flew over to the nest box with it. In an attempt to encourage the young to fledge, he flew back and forth in front of the box, all while carrying the food. When he finally landed at the box, Astrid came, took the food and then it was her turn to repeatedly bring it to the box and then fly away with it. She ultimately gave it to the kids on the west veranda. At about 12:30 PM, Zander executed a jump flight between the long perch in the west veranda. After that all four juveniles reconvened on the west veranda, and all took a nice siesta. They were really crashed out! For a while they all lay together in a pile reminiscent of what they did when they were still downy white chicks – all those days ago! Of course now all of them possess fine juvenile plumage.

All four juviniles resting on top of each other in the later afternoon
All four juviniles resting on top of each other in the later afternoon
Astrid doing a mini feeding at the box
Astrid doing a mini feeding at the box
Astrid coming in for a landing
Astrid coming in for a landing

At 2:30 ish, activity began ramping up again. Spirit went around the pillar and moved onto the window sill located east of the east veranda. That was a big step for her. Later on she made it back to the veranda with little trouble. The juveniles were moving back and forth between the box and the verandas so much it became impossible to keep track who was where. At one point Zander did one of his nice hop flights from the perch to the east veranda, but landed too close to Spirit. A scuffle ensued, but didn’t last long. Ares wasn’t anywhere to be seen in the early evening. We presumed he was out hunting. Meanwhile, Astrid performed a number of checks at the nest box and verandas, but she brought no food. When Ares did return at around 8:00 PM, he had no food either. The nestlings did a lot of screechy begging, but they easily distracted themselves with exploring the ledge, exercising their wings and practicing jumping. In other words, everything they’re supposed to be doing.  Overcast skies insured that nightfall came a little earlier. With Astrid’s apparent encouragement, and just before nightfall, all four nestlings returned to the nest box. Tomorrow (Saturday) is very likely to be the day our first nestling becomes a fledgling.  We will find that out soon enough. If you’re local, consider joining us and helping us to safeguard these raptors when do take first flights.

2 thoughts on “Little Hop-flights do Much to Condition a young Falcon’s Landing Gear”

  1. Great job as always Matt, you are our eyes and ears now with the chicks all venturing out. Especially love the picture of all four sleeping all cuddled up to each other. Keep up the good work, and thank you very much!!

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