Observation date: 22 January 2015
In the 6 hours that I observe them, breeding continues daily at about two to three times a day. It will continue becoming more frequent as we approach the first two weeks of March.
While we’re on the subject of breeding, I receive a lot of questions, in person at the “rock,” and on the website. Here are, but a few of the most asked questions and my answers to them.
Question: Do they breed in the air?
Answer: No, they don’t. What you see in the air is normally courtship. They breed just like chickens and birds on the ground, in a tree, on a rock or in the water such as ducks. Some birds try aerial copulation such as swifts and swallows, but it is more foreplay until they get to a stable position.
Q: How do they breed? I don’t see a phallus.
A: It is called a cloacal kiss.* The male mounts the female who is in a chin down, butt up position with both vents touching in a kiss. The male ejaculates into the female. It takes just seconds. However, ducks, geese and most water fowl have a phallus because of breeding in the water.
Q: Why do falcons breed so often and for so long?
A: My understanding is that for the previous nine months, there is no sexual activity and the testes lie dormant and stay small. With all the activity they become larger and more potent.
Q: When does he know when to breed her?
A: She will usually land on one of her preferred breeding rocks and go into a submissive pose as he flies by. If he does not get the message she will sometimes knock him off his perch and make him come to her. What a gal!
After breeding for three months, the female senses when she is heavy with eggs and she will cease all hunting activities. Within the next couple of weeks she will start laying egg and begin brooding.
Q: Does the male sit on the eggs also?
A: Yes, he does, but he is doing all the hunting to feed everyone including all the chicks. Until they are a couple of weeks old, he will brood the chicks about 35% of the time. She will brood about 65%. At this time, the female will begin to hunt again.
I hope this might answer some of the questions that a few of you might have been too embarrassed to ask me in person.
Happy trails, Bob
Item: For the shy: Shortest copulation 2 seconds, longest copulation 19 seconds observed.
Note: I love to try to answer your questions, if I can. The answers that I have given to them are from 20 years of pure observations and have been consistent year after year. ~Bob
Sub-note: Considering the time that I have seen Bob at the “rock” over the past 4 years, his observations are very accurate and consistent. Numerous visitors to the “rock” see Bob’s dedication to precise observations of avian behavior. ~Heather
* cloacal kiss – the contact which occurs during insemination in birds when the vent of the female is everted exposing the cloacal mucosa against which the phallus of the male is pressed. – Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, 3 ed.. (2007).