A bird’s eye view of parenting

Really, it is one.  My mother works in a nice, tall building in uptown Charlotte and discovered (back at the beginning of April) a pair of unknown birds hanging out on the ledge outside the 40th floor.  She has sent me pictures of birds before and the most common ones she finds up there have been Black Vultures.  This picture, though, was definitely not a vulture (and she picked up on that fast).  What she found up there was a Peregrine Falcon!  What she didn’t expect that day was the birds would actually build a nest, too!  Even better, she was able to get the right people engaged and they installed a webcam so that we can all keep track of these fantastic birds.


Peregrine Falcons are one of the success of modern conservation.  Their population numbers plummeted in the 1960’s and 1970’s due to the use of DDT.  The chemicals that they ingested prevented them from being able to rear any offspring at all.  Captive breeding programs through the 1970’s allowed populations to grow and disperse.  By 1994, Peregrines came off the Federal Endangered Species list- a huge jump.  Today, populations are continuing to grow and disperse.

Johnson, J.A. et al.  2010.  The use of genetics for the management of a recovering population: Temporal assessment of migratory Peregrine Falcons in North America.  PLOS One 5(11)

So now that the birds are on the come-back trail and choosing nest sites that make for easy watching, we can keep track of them and see what happens.  The next few weeks will be an important time in these birds lives, as they need to hatch, eat, grow and finally learn to hunt on their own.  Young Peregrines in some populations have only about a 30% chance of surviving into their second year.

Faccio, S.D. et al.  2011.  Movement patterns, natal dispersal, and survival of Peregrine Falcons banded in New England.  Final Technical Report to the USFWS

How this pair handles their young will be absolutely fascinating to watch!

Here’s what I’m curious about:

1.  What kinds of foods do they bring back for the hatchlings?

2.  Which parents hunts the most?

3.  How long until the kids begin hunting on their own?

4.  How cooperative are they in teaching the kids to hunt?

There’s some evidence of teaching behaviors in early hunting, but the evidence is still mostly anecdotal.

Dekker, D. and R. Taylor.  2005.  A change in foraging success and cooperative hunting by a breeding pair of Peregrine Falcons and their fledglings.  Journal of Raptor Research 39:  394-403.

So here’s your job:  watch the cam and post what you see them doing!  If you see them bring back a pigeon or a squirrel, tell us all.  Let’s keep track of what’s going on!

And if you’re looking for more information on raptors, check out the Carolina Raptor Center!  They’ve got great information on all sorts of birds!



About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
This entry was posted in conservation, ecology, predation, raptors, reproduction. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A bird’s eye view of parenting

  1. Susan Anderson says:

    They are having Nascar Speed Street right beside the building where these birds are. There will be loud live outside bands and race cars reveving up their engines. Is this going to disturb the birds?

    • I don’t know how the birds will react to that event. It will certainly be interesting to see if they’re bothered. Given that they’re doing so well with all the City noise and traffic so far, I’ll bet that they’ll be ok. Keep an eye out for odd behaviors, though.

  2. I am glad to have found your blog! I’ve been checking in with the chicks (?) several times a day, and have seen both parents, but only once did I see mama feeding the little ones. Have not seen her for several days now–is she OK? I am definitely hooked on these birds!!!

    • The parents will definitely spend more time away as the chicks age. They may actually perch nearby rather than on the nest, giving the chicks more room to stretch as they age. I’m actually out of the country right now so I can’t even see what’s happening. I’m looking forward to checking in on them again!

  3. norman deal says:

    NASCAR or any other street level activity should not bother them a bit. I, too watch a couple of times a day, but I did not see them at all today (5/29/13). The younger one didn’t seem mobile enough to move out of camera range yesterday, and I hope the eyrie was not discovered by owls, who are the bane of young peregrines.

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