Monday, June 03, 2013

5 Weeks, Fledging Soon...

Zoom continues to look more and more officially like a peregrine falcon - juvenile brown plumage continues to come in and the white, fluffy down characteristic of a nestling is becoming less and less.  She has been exploring the ledge including many places out of view of the camera causing several viewers to think something is wrong.  If you can't see her, please don't panic!  Nothing is necessarily wrong, she has a lot of places she can be that we can't see via the cameras!

Another milestone this weekend is that she has started to feed herself, grabbing prey from the adults when they bring it to the ledge.  Even the unhatched eggs have recently come in handy--she's been using them to practice her foot grab-technique!  Also top on her daily "to-do" list is lots of flapping and running up and down the ledge.  All of these activities are helping her to strengthen her muscles and hone the skills she will need when she is on the wing.

Speaking of on the wing and off the ledge, fledging usually occurs around day 40, however, females generally fledge later than males.  Will Zoom being an only chick mean she'll go sooner vs. later?  Hard to tell.  We'll find out by watching!

Fledging is expected to occur between June 5-12th.  I generally get a lot of questions at this stage in the nesting cycle about whether or not it is hard for a young falcon to fly for the first time.  Actually, flying is not the difficult part!  Flapping--as we see by the practice flaps--comes very natural to these birds.  The tricky part for a young falcon is learning how to use the tools it has - how to steer, how to turn, how to gain altitude or lose it, and how to land.  They have to figure out what is good to land on, how to land and what to avoid.  What can be particularly confusing is reflective windows in the downtown area.  What looks like sky sometimes can turn out to be a solid surface and more than one fledgling falcon in history has learned that lesson the hard way!  Given the obstacles and the inexperience it is normal to expect rough flights and rough landings initially.  This is how they learn.  Luckily, many in the downtown area are familiar with the peregrines nesting there so if she does happen to wind up on the ground or other predicament, we should find out fairly soon where she is and what's going on and can make a judgement on whether she needs help or not.  And best of all, with no other nest mates, Zoom has both Durand and Spark's undivided attention to continue to feed her after she leaves the ledge.

Hopefully...her first flight will be a calculated liftoff of the ledge by her choice and NOT from being blown by wind, lunging for food or otherwise losing her balance.  And, hopefully, when she does fly she will learn how to make it back to the nest ledge so we can continue to monitor her progress in the days and weeks after her first flight.  More updates on fledging as soon as we know anything!