Observing the Falcons - The Grand Conclusion

Three baby falcons hatched on Easter weekend 2013, and I've had the privilege of watching them on the web cam set up by the City of San Jose, California and the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research group. The babies have grown from small white fuzzy chicks, very dependent on the adults, to large white fuzzy birds. They are now growing their true feathers to begin flying as kings and queens of the sky.

They are so "funny" looking now. More of a salt and pepper with white baby feathers and the dark flying feathers growing rapidly underneath. One of them, the most active one, spreads its wings and is still trying to figure out exact what to do with them. Just like children learning to walk. At one point he was in the box flapping his wings, and it was almost like he was saying to his siblings "Come play with me. Let's flap these things stuck to us on our sides." You can already tell that their wing span is going to be huge.

The biggest more assertive one likes to get out of the nesting box. The other siblings sometimes look at him like "what are you doing down there? Can I come down too?" But they still haven't figured out how to get down from the box.

This weekend all three baby falcons were out of the box and exploring the entire roof area. It was very exciting. They are looking more and more black and less white. They are looking more like young falcons now rather than "babies." The young falcons are growing and looking more like adults every day. They have very little white, fuzzy feathers on them now. Sometimes it's difficult to tell them apart from the adults now.

Over the weekend I noticed one of them was left alone in the nesting box. It was crying for the others. Soon one of its siblings came and joined it. They are still eating voraciously. In fact I noticed one of them actually "scrapping" with one of the adults over a piece of delicious pigeon. After they eat they seem to all rest for a while. Maybe that's a good lesson for all of us adults. Better for the digestion if we rest a bit after we eat.

We have only been seeing two young falcons the last couple of days. I'm not sure if one has fledged already or if it met an early demise. I got so fascinated by these birds that I did a bit of research from National Geographic and learned some very interesting facts about these beautiful birds:

They were once an endangered species in the United States. The North American peregrine falcon made a great come back due to bans on usage of DDT and similar pesticides.
These falcons are formidable hunters that prey on other birds (and bats) in mid-flight. Peregrines hunt from above and, after sighting their prey, drop into a steep, swift dive that can top 200 miles an hour (320 kilometers an hour). This is how they have caught the pigeons near their territory in San Jose, California.

Peregrine falcons are among the world's most common birds of prey and live on all continents except Antarctica. They prefer wide-open spaces, and thrive near coasts where shorebirds are common, but they can be found everywhere from tundra to deserts. Peregrines are even known to live on bridges and skyscrapers in major cities such as San Francisco or San Jose in California.

These birds may travel widely outside the nesting season--their name means "wanderer." Though some individuals are permanent residents, many migrate. Those that nest on Arctic tundra and winter in South America fly as many as 15,500 miles (25,000 kilometers) in a year. Yet they have an incredible homing instinct that leads them back to favored areas. Some nesting sites have been in continuous use for hundreds of years, occupied by successive generations of falcons.

We have actually seen peregrine falcons also in San Francisco, California who have used the same nesting area for quite some time. This year, however, they have had to choose another location due to building construction.

Over the weekend I observed one of the young falcons sitting on the ledge looking up very intently at something in the sky - his head turning 180 degrees. He's probably feeling, "I know I'm supposed to be up there." They will probably be "fledging" soon. It only took a few more days, and the two young falcons have become and queen and king of the sky. They have flown off. They can be seen on different rooftops or flying in the skies above in San Jose. So we started with four eggs. One egg seemed to be infertile. Three eggs hatched, but one falcon seemed to meet an early demise or fledged very early.

It will be interesting to wait and see next spring if they come back to the same spot. What a wonderful treat from God and "mother nature." Perhaps we will be able to see the next generation of falcons take their rightful place in the skies.

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