Monday, October 24, 2016

New Male Identified!

Thanks to fans in POLAND and MARYLAND (yes, many people outside of Ohio and outside the USA enjoy the Columbus FalconCam!) we have an ID on the new male that has been lurking:
The color band is black/red 30/Z.  What has been a mystery up until now, is this male does not have the USFWS (USGS) band!  Only the color band.  Typically, peregrines are banded with both types of bands and even if they would only be banded with one band, it would be the USFWS (USGS) band. So we have been wondering why it doesn't have the other band and now that we have positive ID, we know.

This peregrine was banded in 2014 in Bowling Green, Ohio.  It is a male but was banded as a female! Female peregrines are much larger than the males and thus are fitted with larger size leg bands.  When the chicks are banded at about 3 weeks of age, gender is determined by the size of the nestling.  More times than not, an accurate determination of the sex can be made but evidently, at least in this case this individual falcon was thought to be a female and thus was fitted with the larger size band.  At some point in time, the USFWS (USGS) band must have slipped off over the foot, leaving only the color band to identify this individual.  This is very rare and luckily, the band was lost without injury to the falcon.

As an adult, 30/Z does appear to be larger than the average male.  Here is a photo of 30/Z and Durand bonding in the nest box (male on the left) and he really isn't that much smaller than the female, at least from this view.
So with this exciting news, unfortunately, there is still no sign of Spark.  But we won't know for sure which male will maintain this territory until nesting season gets underway early next year.  For now I will reiterate that this male could just be here as a migrant just as Spark could have migrated elsewhere as well. Only time will tell...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Spark MIA? New Male?

Fans have reported the possibility of a new male in the downtown Columbus territory and concern over the lack of sightings of the resident male, Spark.  The lack of observations of Spark are not necessarily cause for concern at this time of the year.  Courtship and nesting occur in late winter into spring and outside of this time frame some peregrines do migrate (remember that the Latin name for peregrine means “wanderer”).

So it is possible that Spark has migrated out of the area and in his absence another male is investigating the territory.  There are any number of falcons out there (called “floaters”) that do investigate territories as they can, especially during migration.  These floaters can be unmated falcons or falcons with a territory that just happen to be migrating (perhaps Spark is investigating another territory wherever he may be?).

It is also possible that the other male came into the territory and battled Spark for it.  In that case, the lack of sightings of Spark would indicate that the new male was the victor.  However, most territorial battles occur between females and the lack of this other male’s assertiveness in accessing the ledge (and lack of witnesses downtown of such an altercation) would imply that a territorial battle did not occur.

Peregrines maintain the same mate from year to year but quickly find a replacement when/if something happens to one of the pair.  Therefore, the current situation may just be a case of when the cat’s away (Spark), the mice (Durand and the new male) will play-so to speak!!  The birds have no loyalty to a mate if the mate is not present.  Having the cameras running even in the “off season” definitely helps us see more of what goes on. But don’t forget, the downtown territory is large and the cameras only show about 25 feet of ledge space.  Therefore, a lot of the daily action and interactions of the peregrines can and does go on outside of our view.

Our role is to watch and learn and note what players we have when nesting season comes around again early 2017.  Any photos confirming leg bands on a peregrine that is not Durand (or a peregrine lacking leg bands) will be helpful in tracking which male(s) are confirmed in the territory.
To review, Durand's leg bands are:  right:  silver USGS band; left:  black/black 32/X
Spark's leg bands are:  right:  purple USGS band; left:  black/red 32/B
Only time will tell if Spark or the mysterious visitor--or another male altogether--will be the resident male next year.  As information becomes available, it will be shared here.