Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When are we going to get a new male...??!!!

I know some viewers are anxious and getting nervous that we still don't have a new male in Columbus. Some of the questions on people's minds involve what Scout will do if she doesn't find a mate; will she leave and might we get a different pair in Columbus, and so on.

First, let me say that there is still PLENTY of time for a new male to fly into town for our nesting season to proceed on schedule. We are still a month away from egg laying. Given that a male can come into the territory and mate with Scout within a day's time gives us a very wide window. As the days continue to get longer it will increase the number of unmated peregrines on the move so again, the arrival of a new male could literally happen at any moment.

OK then - for all of the doubters out there...what if it doesn't happen? Will Scout leave? Not likely. This is and has been her established territory for many years. The absence of a male would not be a reason for her to up and leave. Would we get an entirely new pair? Also doubtful. Once a pair has a territory, they don't "shop around" for a new area. They stay on territory the same as Scout will stay on her territory. There's always the possibility that a lone female could wander into town with an interest in the territory, however, Scout would defend her area against a female intruder. The only way we'd get a new pair completely is if an umated female usurped the territory from Scout and then a new male came in after that. For those who track peregrine nestings around the world you'll know that scenario is always possible but it really doesn't happen very often.

Regardless of how the Columbus situation plays out, this is an exciting time. The next few weeks will be prime time for the arrival of a new male and everyone is in suspense. Over the years the Columbus FalconCams have given us a peek into the lives of these birds and many have enjoyed watching eggs hatch and young grow. It's easy to be distracted about what we don't have/what we aren't seeing via the cams-we aren't seeing a new male. But looking beyond what we don't have, I hope that everyone realizes the educational opportunity that the cams are continuing to give through this different (and completely normal) phase of a peregrine's life-a change in mate. Even if the view isn't of the type of activity and behaviors we might want to see, it is nonetheless an important time in Scout's life and we are all witnesses! You might say this is the best reality show on the web!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Interesting Shadow

A break in the clouds today produced an interesting shadow. Scout was sitting on top of the nestbox and projected on the back wall of the nestbox was a clear shadow of her tail and wing tips. The shadow illustrated just how long the wings of a peregrine are.

This is remarkable because I often get calls from people reporting a peregrine falcon they saw in their backyard. While such a report is certainly possible, it is far more probable that the typical suburban caller observed a Cooper's hawk--not a peregrine. These two species of raptors are similar in size and plumage and both prey on small birds, thus they are often confused. But the main difference between the 2 species is how their bodies are built that defines the typical niche they hunt in. Cooper's hawks have short wings and a long tail that is used as a rudder to maneuver amongst trees and shrubs found in the typical backyard. Peregrines, on the other hand, have extremely long wings and a short tail. They need a wide open space to pursue their prey and wouldn't do well chasing a songbird through tree branches--their wings would simply get caught up in the tangle.
This difference in their wings and tail is extremely evident when one knows what to look at. When the bird is perched and wings folded against the body, notice where the tip of the wings fall in relation to the tip of the tail. On a Cooper's hawk, the tail will extend several inches beyond the end of the wings. On a peregrine, the wing tips will be as long or even longer than the tail. I thought Scout's shadow today showed how long the wing tips are on a peregrine in quite a unique way.