Monday, July 06, 2009

Sad news - remembering Orville

With all of the concern over the fledglings learning to fly successfully and avoiding windows and other obstacles, it is easy to forget that these same obstacles still present a danger to the adult falcons downtown. I'm sorry to report that Orville, our adult male, was found dead over the weekend.

A Columbus police officer found him in the street near W. Town & S. Gift St. Saturday morning, July 4. I have examined the carcass and noted a broken beak and blood in the cere, thus he likely collided with something and the cause of death would be head trauma. There aren't any tall buildings in that area of Columbus so he may have been struck by a car as he was cruising across the roadway. The death was certainly not related to Red, White and Boom held the previous evening.

Looking back on Orville's history - he fledged from the Dayton nest in 2003 and showed up in Columbus in 2004, replacing our then long-time nesting male, Bandit. He paired with our female at the time--Victory--but no eggs were produced. Victory and Orville produced 2 young in 2005, and 4 young in 2006. In 2007, Victory was replaced by Scout but eggs laid that season were infertile. Scout and Orville fledged four young in each 2008 and 2009 bringing Orville's total young raised during his lifetime to 14. Some photos from over the years:

Orville on banding day in Dayton, 2003:

Orville as a fledgling in 2003:

Orville in 2005:

Now that Orville is gone, it opens the territory for a new male. While you may have heard that falcons "mate for life" this means something very different to people than it does to peregrines. Basically, peregrines (as well as other birds of prey and even Canada geese) keep the same mate for as long as the two are alive. However, when/if something happens to one of the pair, the remaining bird will readily accept a new mate. In the case of peregrines, sometimes a new mate is had in a matter of hours! There's no room for being picky or mournful when your "job" is to reproduce and carry on the species!

So the next order of business is to watch and wait for a new male to take over the Columbus territory. There are so many unmated falcons out there ("floaters") it could happen at any time. We may see a new male this week or it may be next March. We'll be sure to watch the cams for photo evidence of a new male and document any leg bands.

One final note on the fledglings - the three females seem to be doing great as evidenced by their returns to the nest ledge. "Aerial" (65/H) even made an appearance on Friday, so all 3 were accounted for last week. They should be pretty much able to hunt on their own by now so Orville's absence at this stage in the nesting cycle won't have any negative impacts on their survival. They can be expected to remain in the downtown area for the next several weeks but as they become completely independent, will eventually roam further and further from downtown proper. At some point later this summer they will strike out to parts unknown to hopefully survive and establish a territory of their own elsewhere.