Wednesday, June 18, 2008

5 week update

The nestlings will soon become fledglings! Here are 2 of the chicks in the nestbox at 5 weeks of age. You can see that most of their juvenile, brown feathers have grown in and the amount of fuzzy, white down is less and less. I've been in the field quite a bit this week on other projects and haven't had much time to watch but I imagine everyone has been seeing more and more flight "practice" on the ledge. Expect them to do a lot of wing flapping on the ledge to strengthen their muscles and get a feel for what they'll need to do before we actually see a first flight. Fledging could occur as early as this weekend--Sunday will mark 40 days for oldest chick--but the majority of fledging probably won't occur until sometime next week.

What determines when they actually fly off the ledge for the first time? Sometimes it happens by accident if they are too close to the edge and a wind gust knocks them off or they might lunge for incoming food from one of the adults and suddenly find themselves airborne. Othertimes they fly just because they are ready. The males tend to fledge sooner than the females.

Folks often worry about their first flights and I like to say that flying is not the hard part--flapping comes naturally. What is tricky is LANDING-figuring out how to maneauver and what can be landed on and what cannot. Mirrored windows present quite the challenge to young birds as well as they figure out what is sky vs. a reflection of sky and what is a building vs. a reflection of a building. Some interested individuals volunteer their time on the streets downtown watching the birds but for the most part it is up to Scout and Orville to keep track of their young. We'll intervene if/when there is an actual injury involved and/or if a fledgling falcon finds itself in a place it won't be able to get out of (for example, the middle of the street or a recessed areas high on a building).

On another note, the ledgecam audio is not working right now. We hope to troubleshoot tomorrow and get it operational again. For now, you can still hear the birds via the nestbox microphone but if they are on the other end of the ledge the sound will be quite faint.