Friday, February 23, 2007

Courtship starts at the Rhodes Tower

Orville and Scout have been spending a fair amount of time at the nest ledge and some of the activity caught via the webcam indicates courtship. In particular, it appears as if the birds are performing either the "head-low" and/or "bowing" display (see photo). Both displays are elements of courtship that are performed on a ledge near the nest.

In the "head-low" stance, the bird (either the male or the female) lowers its head in relation to the rest of its body. This can be done along with "bowing" in which the head and upper body move repeatedly up and down. Both behaviors can be accompanied by what is termed a creaking-call or wailing-call. (Once we have the live streaming video with audio we'll be better able to figure out their behavior vs. looking at still photos in which we think we know what the birds are up to! )

In light of Scout's persistance at the nest and the perceived courtship behavior it is safe to assume that the two birds have bonded and are working towards nesting together this year. So, the big question is: Where does Victory fit into this equation?
One Scenario: First, keep in mind that we still do not know if Victory will be able to be released back into the wild. However, IF she is releasable it is very likely that she will attempt to return to "her" territory at the Rhodes Tower-experience in the past has shown us that is what peregrines do. The scenario could continue in that she would defend "her" territory against Scout and since Scout now considers this to be her territory as well, a battle would likely ensue. There is no way to predict which bird would be the winner.

Knowing Scout has already claimed the territory we will not release Victory in Columbus. It would be too much of a physical disadvantage for her, having been in rehab for so long. Rather, we would consider releasing her some distance away, perhaps as far south as the Ohio River. Releasing her that far away it would take her several days to make it back to Columbus, during which time, living in the wild and the journey would help get her back into shape physically and she would be more fit for a potential battle.

However, timing is not good. We had hoped that she would be healed and released by now--prior to courtship. But it looks as though her stay in rehab will be extended even further for additional evaluation, imping of more feathers, not to mention physical conditioning necessary prior to release. So, this could drag on several more weeks at least. All the while we get closer to nesting and the longer Scout is there the more protective she will be of her territory.

Yet another scenario would be that if Victory is deemed releasable that she be held in captivity until after the nesting season is complete in Columbus and young have fledged (if we have an active nest this year). There are pros and cons with this scenario as well and we won't decide which way to act until we know more about her physical condition and what other activity is going on at the Rhodes nest site.

Right now these are just a couple of possible outcomes and everything hinges on whether or not Victory's rehabilitation progresses to the point that she is indeed able to be released back into the wild. Stay tuned...!

Y/5's role in helping Victory

I teased last update that Y/5, the Canadian female falcon that spent several winters at the Rhodes Tower, might have a role in helping Victory. Since her death in 2005, I have kept the carcass in our district freezer for possible education use in the future. Ironically, it has worked out that some of Y/5's wing feathers have been donated to be used in the imping process for Victory!

Because of Victory's large size, other donor feathers that were initially obtained just weren't long enough. Remembering that Y/5 was a large female and with both birds being in captivity we knew they were of similar weight. With luck, the feathers were a match and so far 2 feathers have been imped, with 3 still needing to be done. Victory is currently under observation to see if she is flying better with intact feathers but it is still too soon to know if she will be releasable.

In antipication of if/when Victory is releasable, I've been getting a few "what-if" questions about Scout's presence in the territory. In the next update I will explain some of the scenarios.

Here are pictures of the unused donor feathers and Dr. Don Burton of the Ohio Wildlife Center checking Victory's vitals prior to the imping process.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Frozen falcons?!

Temps in Columbus have been frigid! But that hasn't stopped the peregrine activity! Since the last update 2 birds have been seen on numerous occasions. Orville has been confirmed a number of times by showing his leg band with the 12/P code (see photo). The other bird is presumed to be Scout, but she has been staying at the far end of the ledge so we don't know that for sure without a leg band reading.

Even though high temps have barely been breaking single digits, on a clear, sunny day the nest ledge will be much, much warmer because of the southern exposure. Not a bad place for a peregrine to spend an afternoon!

Remember the Canadian female Y/5? (If not, check out the January and February reports from 2003, 2004 and finally the 1/20/05 update in our chronological nest reports at: Find out in the next update how she may be helping Victory!