A cheeky neighbor…

Observation date: 1 June 2014

The last few days were play days for the young juvenile falcon. The lessons can be fun. While chasing the mother across the face of the rock, he was trying to stay with her turn for turn. He was able to do this even at great speeds if there were a series of short quick turns in a relatively straight line. Where he fell a little short was in the long sweeping high G turns of 180° and more. He could not stay with her and mushes out in the turn. Even though he has broader wings because of the feathering of juveniles,* it is the lack of muscle strength in the high G forces that kept him from being able to stay with her. In time as his strength and ability grows he will be able to stay with her.

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peregrine, juvenile, Morro Bay, Morro Rock

South side juvenile peregrine                                         Photo by Bob Isenberg

For the last two days, he had been visited by one of the juveniles from the north side. We don’t know why he likes coming over other than to play and spar with the south side youngster. At two different instances, the north side juvenile had chased the south side adult female thinking it had prey for him to eat. He had given up chasing her and landed on the “butcher block.” I think she felt sorry for him, later retrieving a tidbit from a  stash she took it to him and fed him. Twice, in as many days. I have witnessed this in previous years and it’s not unusual for a female to feed someone else’s chick, however, the tiercel is not so sympathetic with the youngster from around the north side and had smacked him several times on occasion.

In observing the two youngsters, we have been able to identify the north side chick by the coloring on the head. The cream colored cheek patch which defines the malar stripe* is very large creating a thin mustache, pencil thin, like Errol Flynn. The patch giving him a very cheeky appearance. He does not fly as well as the south side chick as he must be somewhat younger. As of this writing, the south side juvenile has been flying twelve days. I suspect Errol Flynn has seven or eight days flight time, because I don’t know exactly when he fledged. The south side juvenile has already become adept at aerial food transfers. Yesterday, a few of us saw a food transfer which he accidentally dropped and flying after it caught it in mid-air. I think he surprised himself. He certainly surprised all of us watching.

These periods of excitement don’t last very long, but are well worth seeing to the enthusiast. There are long periods of sheer boredom when birds are just perching, digesting, resting, sleeping, etc.

If you expect to see any of this exciting activity happen, plan on staying at least two hours, unless you are very lucky.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: Six years ago, the new south side tiercel rejected her two chicks from another father. He ran them off to the other side where the north side female adopted and fed them with three of her own.

*malar stripe – A marking on a bird’s face that extends from the base of the bill to the side of the neck, usually in a downwards and backwards direction. It reduces glare. i.e. It is similar to the black marks that football players use on their cheeks.

*feathering of juveniles – Feathering of juveniles is longer and wider creating more surface area as to make it easy to fly, aka ”training wheels.” After thirteen months these feathers will be replaced by adult plumage.

peregrine, juvenile, Morro Bay, Morro Rock

Soaring peregrine juvenile fully feathered                       Photo by Cleve Nash

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