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2002 Nestbox News

August 2, 2002 - Final Entry for 2002
It has now been about two months since the Jersey City peregrine falcon chicks fledged from their nest box on top of NJ's tallest building at 101 Hudson Street. Although they are rarely seen on the camera these past few weeks, the young peregrines are staying relatively close to the nest site. This is typical behavior of young peregrines during the first two months or so following fledging. This is the time when they hone their flying and hunting skills. However, they are still somewhat dependent on the adults for food. Soon, they will become increasingly independent and may travel long distances, wandering and scouting the region.

We know from Cape May Banding Station data that our juvenile falcons travel south, but we aren't sure where or how far. It is likely that they will spend the winter months south of New Jersey - maybe as far south as Chesapeake Bay or the Carolinas. We also know that they are likely to wander during their first year or so, then begin to look for a nesting site when they are 2 or 3 years of age. Hopefully somewhere in New Jersey. Thanks to everyone who has followed the peregrine falcons at 101 Hudson this season - see you next year!

June 21, 2002
The female fledgling peregrine that was found on the ground in Jersey City last weekend has fully recovered from its harrowing experience and was released on the roof of 101 Hudson on Thursday afternoon at about 1:30 p.m. As biologists opened the door to the rooftop the adult female was perched on top of the nestbox. She immediately took flight and began calling and swooping down on the biologists as they opened the carrying cage to release the bird. As soon as the box was opened the young female took flight and joined her parents who were circling overhead.

Her wing feathers are now fully developed and her flight muscles strong thanks to the work of Len and Diane Soucy and all of the dedicated staff and volunteers at The Raptor Trust of Millington, NJ. The Raptor Trust cared for the bird over the past few days as it strengthened its flight muscles in the large flight pen at the center. Len and his staff are no strangers to caring for endangered and threatened species as the ENSP has depended on their expertise in treating injured birds countless times over the years. The Raptor Trust handles thousands of birds each year and is funded solely by contributions from the public.

June 17, 2002
At just over seven weeks of age, the three peregrine nestlings (one male and two females) have now become fledglings. Typically, male peregrines fledge at about 6 weeks of age and the females (which are larger) at about 6. The fledging, which may have occurred as early as the weekend of June 8-9 for the male, was not without incident. Over the past weekend a passerby discovered one of the female fledglings on the ground in Jersey City. After a series of phone calls and a number of transfers the bird ended up at The Raptor Trust - the largest bird rehabilitation facility in the state. Upon examination the bird was found to be healthy and had no physical injuries.

On June 17th the bird was placed into a large flight cage with an adult peregrine falcon at The Raptor Trust facility. Here the bird will have the opportunity to exercise and strengthen her flight muscles before being brought back to the rooftop to join her siblings. It is anticipated that the release will occur later this week. Stay tuned for further updates.

June 5, 2002
The peregrine nestlings are only occasionally in view of the camera lately. They jumped out of the nest box around May 30, staying near the box at first, but now are actively exploring their rooftop. At just over 5 weeks of age, their flight feathers are still growing but they are quickly losing their remaining white downy feathers and starting to resemble their parents.

Division of Fish and Wildlife pathologist Dr. Doug Roscoe examined the nestling that died around May 19th. He did not find evidence of disease, but the bird had not eaten, and was probably in a weakened state when unusual cold weather occurred that weekend; this weather also affected other young birds being monitored by the division. However it is unusual to lose a nestling three weeks old.

We expect the remaining young birds to try their wings in a first flight sometime next week.

May 31, 2002
The three peregrine chicks (1 male and two females) were banded by NJDFW biologists on May 23rd at about three and a half weeks of age. All three birds were healthy and growing fast. They were each fitted with two aluminum leg bands. The federal band (silver) was placed on the right leg and a two-tone, black over red band containing a unique combination of letters and numbers was placed on the left leg. The black and red band identifies them as New Jersey birds.

The chicks are now about four and a half weeks old and have left the nestbox to explore the roof. You may have noticed that the birds are seen less often on the camera these days. At this age their wings are more than 50% feathered. The head is 50-75% feathered. The striped breast feathers are becoming conspicuous.

The birds will continue to develop quickly and the male will be ready to fledge (take their first flight) by six weeks of age. The females will be ready to fledge between 6 and a half and seven weeks.

May 22, 2002
We have some sad news to report. Unfortunately, one of our four nestlings was found dead in the box on May 20th. We think that the nestling died sometime on Friday, though we're not entirely sure. One of our brave caretakers from LCOR snuck out onto the rooftop yesterday to remove the carcass from the nestbox to prevent the spread of disease and so that we might find out what happened to the nestling.

So far the the cause of death is not yet known but we plan to have the nestling autopsied by our Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics to try and find out what happened. It is unusual for a young falcon to make it to this age, and then suddenly die. We are very curious as to why this happened and we will post an update here once the autopsy is completed.

The nestlings are now about three and a half weeks old. At this age they are developing rapidly but are not very mobile. Over the next few days you will notice significant changes as they lose their white downy appearance and juvenile feathers develop. By four weeks of age their wings will be about 50% feathered. The tail feathers will be noticeable through the down and dark feathers around the eyes will become conspicuous. The best opportunity to band the nestlings occurs between three and four weeks and banding is scheduled for May 23, 2002. At four and a half weeks the nestlings become much more mobile and will leave the nestbox to run around on the roof. As a result, they may not always be visible on the monitor.

May 6, 2002
The peregrine chicks are a week old today, and we can definitely see that there are four of them! This is one more than last year. We were unsure until recently that the fourth egg had actually hatched. Now, all four chicks are strong and clearly visible.

The chicks are getting bigger by the day and are moving around more in the nest box by themselves. As a result, the adults are brooding them less closely. In fact, they are leaving them alone in the nestbox for longer and longer periods of time.

Both male and female peregrine falcons hunt and care for the young. Female peregrines are larger than the male, and because their plumage is exactly the same, this is the only way to distinguish between the sexes So, unless they are both in the box at the same time, it is extremely difficult to tell which adult is caring for the chicks at any given time.

Today, during one of the many daily feedings (the tireless parents bring as many as ten birds per day to their brood), one of the adults could be seen feeding the chicks much larger pieces of food than they were getting last week. In fact, when one of the chicks was having trouble swallowing a piece right away, its smaller sibling grabbed an end of it and began tugging. The bigger chick won the tug-of-war. After the adult was finished feeding them, it flew from the box, leaving the chicks alone with the pigeon carcass. The young birds could be seen gingerly pecking at it by themselves (although it didn't look like they were really eating any of it).

About 10 minutes later, one of the adults flew back into the box, ate some of the pigeon itself, and then flew off to dispose of the remains. Then, it flew back again, picked up little pieces of meat that hadn't been eaten, and gave them to whichever chicks were still hungry. After cleaning house, the adult perched on the edge of the nestbox, picked its feet clean, and preened its feathers. With its chicks quiet for the moment, the adult ruffled its feathers, tucked its left foot up, and rested.

April 30, 2002
Today we can see at least three chicks in the nest. At first it seemed that the adults were feeding one chick more often than the other, but now all three are holding their heads high, begging for food and seeming to get almost equal attention! It is still hard to see each individual chick as they aren't quite big enough to be seen over the box's front.

It's not hard to miss the pigeons and starlings that the adults are bringing to feed them, though! The adults catch most of their prey in mid-flight. People who are watching the nest from nearby office buildings tell us that when they see a peregrine swoop by their window, they often see a sudden explosion of feathers as it meets its target. When they look back at the webcam video on their computer, they see one of the parents bringing their quarry back to the chicks! The adults hunt often. Why don't you try to count how many birds they bring back every hour?

April 29, 2002
Good news! Today a chick hatched in the nestbox and was seen being fed by the parents. It looks very strong and the parents have been extremely attentive. So far, we only see one young bird, but others should soon follow. The female peregrine is "brooding" the chick closely - which mean she ruffles her feathers and sits down over it to keep it warm. She will do this for a few days until the little bird can regulate its own body temperature.

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