Wednesday, May 29, 2013

4 Weeks and a Major Milestone

"Zoom" the Columbus falcon chick is 4 weeks old now and doing GREAT!!!!  Many may not have watched over the long holiday weekend and if so, I bet were probably surprised to tune in again this week and see the changes in this falcon in just a few days.  Really apparent now is the juvenile brown plumage coming in, especially on the back, wings and tail.  Her wings are looking official!!  Here's a great video showing those feathers and some practice flapping. She is also getting much more coordinated in her walking ability (although, the nature of a bird of prey's feet prevents them from walking very gracefully even on a good day..!).

Today marked what we think was the first time that Zoom made it to the upper ledge as shown in this video.  As indicated in the video description, food IS a great motivator and Zoom jumped up there like a pro!  Zoom's presence on the upper ledge is bound to make many nervous...however, while "accidental ledge departures" can happen (due to wind, lack/loss of balance, etc.) at least in Columbus at this nest site it has never happened before a nestling was fully feathered and capable of flight.  At the rate Zoom's wing feathers are coming in if something were to happen, she'd probably at least flutter to the ground.  Even so--let's assume all will be well and she will stay on the ledge for the full term of the nestling phase.  Enjoy this collage of her growth:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Plumage Changing

Good Morning All.
I see that the nestbox camera is currently off.  Unfortunately there is no way to address the camera issue until Tuesday, but luckily not much is going on in the nestbox.  Yesterday Zoom spent most of her day exploring the ledge area outside the box.
I wanted to touch a little bit on the change in Zoom's plumage.  As everyone can tell she is getting bigger and stronger with each passing day.  You can see in the picture that Zoom is even larger now than she was at the banding just a few short days ago.
We are beginning to see the brown juvenile feathers coming in.  As her flight feathers fill in, we will begin to witness Zoom stretching her wings out, flapping as she faces into the wind and hopping.  When raptor chicks exhibit this behavior they are practicing for their first attempts at flight.  This activity is used to strengthen the muscles they need to fly.
In about 2 weeks she will be testing her flight capabilities.
Hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Banding News Reports and Video

Zoom is doing great and showing off her leg bands the day after banding!  There was excellent media coverage of the event.  The local ABC station was there and I'm told they aired a nice piece on their evening news, although I haven't found it online in order to post a link.  This Associate Press story was also picked up by a newspaper in San Francisco!!!  And here is a link to a short video of the banding on the Ohio Division of Wildlife's page on Facebook!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Banding Goes Great!

This morning's banding event went very well, and we thank everyone who tuned in.  Thanks also to our video team for filming and to Susie Vance for narrating the event.  Hopefully, the play-by-play helped the web audience follow along a little better.  As soon as we have video highlights ready I will post a link.  In the meantime, here's a video posted to YouTube by one of our top fans who was watching online.  Local media covered the event as well.

The Division's statewide peregrine biologist determined that Zoom is a female.  She was equipped with a silver USGS band on the right leg and a color band (black over red) band on the left leg.  The code for the color band is:  51/Z.

Zoom appeared very healthy and had good weight - obviously eating well being an only chick!  The nestling will probably spend a good portion of the day resting from her brief time away from the familiarity of the nestbox/ledge.  Zoom's job now is to continue to grow and explore the ledge - she will be ready to fly in under 3 weeks!

The unhatched eggs were not removed from the box because the Division of Wildlife does not have permission from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to do so.  When I retrieved the chick from the ledge I did take a moment to move the eggs off to the side in hopes they would be out of the way and forgotten.  So much for that effort - in no time at all after Zoom was back in the nest, Durand had moved the eggs back to the front.  If the eggs are still present later this fall when the box gets its annual cleaning they will be removed at that time.

Thanks again SO much for every one's interest in the Division of Wildlife's Peregrine Falcon Program!

Monday, May 20, 2013

3 Weeks Old - Banding Day Tomorrow!

Age and warm weather has the chick--now 3 weeks old--spending more time out of the nestbox!  Here's a nice video clip that shows the chick in action yesterday!  Of note are the dark, juvenile feathers starting to come in the wings and tail as well as increased coordination with walking, pecking and flapping.    

Tomorrow is the "big day" when "Zoom" will be equipped with metal leg bands.  We will live stream the event via the nestbox feed beginning about 10 a.m.  During the actual banding work will be done on the nestbox so the ledgecam video feed (after we remove the chick from the nestbox) will be suspended during the banding.
**This afternoon our videographers will be testing cameras for the event so there may be temporary interruptions in the live feed today.**
When we remove the chick from the nest it will be given a brief examination for overall health.  At that time it will be determined (based on size) if the chick is a male or female.   As is true with most birds of prey, the females are larger than the males.  So much so, that females actually require a larger size leg band than the males.

Zoom will receive a band on each leg.  Even though the chick has some growing to do yet, at 3 weeks of age its legs are about the size they will be as an adult so bands can be safely put on the legs.  Bands are lightweight and fit loosely much like a human would wear a bracelet.  The right leg will be fitted with a USGS band which has a multi digit number (think of it like a social security number) unique to that falcon.  This band is usually not able to be read unless the bird is in hand.  That's why peregrines often also get a second leg band, called a "color band."  This band will be put on the left leg and will be black on the top, red on the bottom.  Color bands have only a few number/letter digits and allow for identifying the bird at a distance.  The color combo (black over red) is unique to Ohio. 

Banding is done for research purposes - because these bands will stay on the bird for life, they will help identify this bird wherever it may be seen again.  Leg band reports reveal information about bird migrations, survival and behaviors, and are a very important research tool.  It is stressful to all involved (falcons and humans both!) when we remove the chick from the nest but we take precautions to keep disturbance to a minimum and the event brief.  In the big picture, a few minutes out of this chick's day will contribute substantially to what we know about peregrines, as well as help to educate and increase awareness of all who are able to share the event with us either in person or online.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Here's a photo I saved from yesterday that shows the chick out on the "porch" of the nestbox.  The past couple of days we have seen the chick being left "alone" in the nestbox for long stretches of time.  This is normal!  Some comments on this:  As shown in this photo, the chick isn't really alone - Durand is right there, perched on the camera housing.  Even if one or both of the adults aren't immediately visible via the cameras, they ARE likely close by.  
As the chick continues to grow it really doesn't need the warmth of the adult so much any longer especially with the current weather in Central Ohio.  The past couple of days have been quite warm (high in Columbus yesterday was 88!).   Along with the warm days, nighttime lows have been mild as well (Monday's low was in the low 40s but since then it hasn't been cooler than 60 overnight).  This weather pattern is predicted to continue for the next several days.
Other telltale signs of normal progress of the nestling phase:  The chick is starting to pick at leftovers in the nestbox and lunge towards the adult when food arrives.  Finally, the nestbox is getting fouled with feces and prey remains.  These conditions can also induce the adults to keep their distance from the chick!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2 Weeks Old

Here's a nice photo of the chick and Durand from Sunday, just about 2 weeks of age.  I know I state this often, but again, it is simply amazing how fast it grows!  Also noticeable in this photo is the protruding crop - evidence of a good meal.

The naming poll is now closed and the winner is...Zoom!  Thanks to all of the students who submitted names and the over 3,500 people who voted!!!  The banding is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21st at 10 a.m. and will be shown over the live stream.  We will let you know which feed (ledge or nestbox) when we get the details worked out.

Yesterday afternoon the chick ventured out of the nestbox and was out of sight of the adults.  This confused Durand and to compensate she went back into incubation mode and even offered food to the eggs!  This peculiar change in the adult's behavior continued into the evening.  Even though the chick was not in any danger, we made the decision to put the chick back in the box late last evening due to the cool overnight temperatures.  All seems very "normal" this morning. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Reminder to Vote!

If you haven't cast your vote yet, there is still time!  The webpoll to name the Columbus Falcon Chick closes today at noon.  Please vote!!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Box is Empty!!! Where'd It Go??

Everything continues to go very well with the chick.  It is growing fast!  It is also advancing in its development such that it is becoming more mobile, preening, and vocalizing.  It is mobile to the extent now, that it has strayed out of camera view a few times, causing mild panic in more than a couple of viewers.  Therefore, I will use this blog post to attempt to give a better perspective of the layout of the nestbox and ledge to hopefully put some at ease.

Here is a photo of the nestbox from down the ledge a bit.  In this picture you can see several things:
1) The "porch" directly in front of the nestbox.  This porch is at the same level as the gravel so the chick can walk right out of the nestbox onto the porch.  See also that the nestbox camera housing is mounted to the porch.  As the chick wanders out of the box it will go out of view of the nestbox camera.  Eventually, the chick will even leave the porch and wander down the lower level of the ledge towards the ledge camera.  When it goes on this type of journey there will definitely be times when it will be out of view of both cameras.
2) This photo also shows the several inch vertical distance between the rear, lower level of the ledge and the front, upper level of the ledge where the adults land when they fly in.  It will be another couple of weeks before the chick will be grown and strong enough to jump up to the upper part of the ledge.

Here is a close-up photo of the porch in front of the nestbox where again, it illustrates places the chick could go to where it would not be able to be viewed by the nestbox camera.
Even though the chick will wander, it will consider the nestbox its "home base" and return there if it feels threatened, to be fed (at least for now) and to sleep at night.  The weather this weekend will be a bit cooler so I would suspect the chick may stay in the protection of the nestbox more the next couple of days.  But then again, even with cool temps if the sun is shining strongly it will be quite warm on the ledge and the chick may not need to stay inside the box.  Just some factors to consider.

Bottom line, please remember there will be times when the chick is NOT visible.  Two cameras on the ledge are nice but they do not offer 100% view of all nooks and crannies of the box and ledge.  Just because the chick and/or adults may not be visible does not automatically mean something is wrong.  On the contrary, as I stated a few posts ago, remember that peregrines have been using this box and ledge setup quite successfully for the past 2 decades!  It's always possible for something to go wrong, however, we (or should I say the peregrines?) have a pretty good track record at this site.

One other quick note:  there is a Civil War reenactment going on this weekend on the statehouse lawn, which is directly across the street from the Rhodes Tower.  Part of the activities include firing of cannons.  These loud booms can be heard via the live streaming and sometimes they do momentarily alarm the adults.  However, it isn't anything to be concerned about - to the falcons it's just part of living downtown and isn't much different from a loud clap of thunder (which we are also hearing today!).  Enjoy and thanks for everyone's support and concerns!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Name the Chick!

Each year since 1996 we have held a contest to involve a school in the naming of the Columbus falcon nestlings.  Throughout the process of the naming contest we encourage students to learn about wildlife conservation and biology.  As they learn specific characteristics about peregrines, they use that knowledge to help them select a name that reflects the power, agility and majesty of this raptor.  Other guidelines we require include that the name is not a human name, is not gender specific and has not been used in Columbus in the past 5 years. 

Thanks to the students at Scioto Darby Elementary School in Hilliard for hosting this year's naming contest for the Columbus chick!  Students from grades 1 through 5 submitted over 80 names! A panel of local wildlife enthusiasts narrowed the names down to these 4 finalists: 
Click here to go to the webpoll! Voting will continue through noon on Monday, May 13th.

Banding is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21st and will be shown on the live streaming video feed.  More detail to follow on the banding event as plans are finalized. 
Here's the chick earlier today with a bulging crop--the result of a big meal!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Is Incubation Finally Over?

It appears that Durand is finally ready to give up on the eggs.  (In this picture they are spread out...however, as I write this Durand came in to brood the chick and pulled one of the eggs under her again!)  At any rate, the chick continues to do very well.  It has grown to the point that for much of today it was able to be left uncovered! Each day it gets a little more mobile, taking short wanderings around the nestbox.  It's daily routine is pretty much along the lines of:  sleep, eat, chirp, sleep, sit up for a bit, chirp, wander, sleep, eat, sleep, eat again, wander, sleep, chirp, sleep, sit up, chirp, eat, sleep... you get the picture!

Monday, May 06, 2013

One Week Old

What a difference a week makes!  The chick is growing so fast!  After only a week you can see it has almost tripled in size!  Today I observed it sitting up and starting to preen itself already!  As it continues to grow it will need to be brooded less and less.  However, Durand is still concerned with keeping the eggs covered, so this chick might get brooded longer than usual--at least until it becomes more mobile and strays away from the eggs.

I had a couple of questions on the history of Durand and Spark so I have linked back to my original posts about them.  Durand first arrived in Columbus in July of 2010.   Spark showed up almost exactly a year ago (May 7th to be precise) and interestingly, has genetic ties to the Columbus nest!  Bird Cams Around the World has a detailed page of history of the Columbus nest site as well.  Enjoy!!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

First off, an update:  Everything is going very well at the nest.  After a rough "learning curve" the first couple of days, both Durand and Spark seem to have the feeding process down pat.  The chick is growing fast!!  It is still possible for one or more of the remaining eggs to hatch, but at this point I would be surprised if so.  If it doesn't happen over the weekend then it probably won't happen.  Any eggs that don't hatch will eventually be cast off to the side and ignored as the adults will shift their focus to the chick only.  Sometimes the adults will remove unhatched eggs from the nest, other times they will actually consume them.  In the meantime, as Durand broods the chick, the eggs are continually kept warm so we'll give them another few days before we say definitely the clutch is complete.

Lots of questions coming in that I will attempt to address here.  Also please check out 2 different pages on the Division of Wildlife's website for information on peregrines:  FAQs and Falcon Facts

Brooding:  Because it can't regulate it's own temperature at first, Durand will brood the chick regularly for about the first 10 days or so.  After that, you'll see the chick being left alone more and more. 
Cleanliness of the box:  One person commented that the Columbus nestbox was so much cleaner than other peregrine nestboxes they view.  Here in Ohio, we routinely clean out nestboxes after the nesting season is over.  The Columbus box starts out each new season with new gravel and a fresh coat of paint so it looks pretty clean and tidy right now.  That will change quickly over the next few weeks.  We can expect even one chick to mess the box with feces and prey remains.  Once the chick gets a little bigger, it will start pooping on the walls of the box and maybe even on the front of the nestboxcam housing.  If you happen to surf back through this blog's archives to other nesting years you can see examples of how dirty our nestbox can get!  [And, no--it is not much fun to clean out the box after a clutch has fledged!]
Does the chick need water?:  In a word, yes!  But birds of prey rarely actually drink water directly, rather they get the hydration they need from the flesh of their prey.  So, the chick doesn't need to drink as long as Durand and Spark are supplying nice juicy songbirds.
How long will the chick be in the nest?:  The chick will actually begin walking around and exploring the box in a matter of days and will even leave the nestbox to explore the ledge as it gets older.  They grow very fast--they take their first flights at about 6 weeks of age.  So, don't blink or you might miss something!

I think that brings us all up to date.  More information next week regarding naming and banding!