Cathedral Peregrines Update | 15 May 2013

Ever wondered why a peregrine lays a maximum of 4 eggs? Well this might be the answer.

Day 15 | Its been an awful night weather-wise at Norwich with over 12mm of rain and very windy.

Cam1 Side 2013-05-15 00-00-15 soaking wet

The female is soaked but she has managed to keep her 4 chicks warm and dry. They are growing fast and at this stage of their development its getting very difficult for her to protect them from the elements completely. Its unlikely that she would be able to provide a 5th chick with shelter and, still in down, it would have probably have become cold and wet. The consequences are not hard to predict.

Cam1 Side 2013-05-15 06-43-35 just about covered

The chicks’ down affords good insulation for them but it is not very waterproof and must be kept dry. Its only when they are fully feathered that they will be able to cope with all the facets of the british weather. However, a couple of the chicks are starting to show the first signs of feathers. Look at the image below.

Cam1 Side 2013-05-15 04-54-22 feathers in pin circled

It shows one chick with its ‘wings’ out-stretched and the first of the flight feathers can be seen emerging as a row of small ‘rods’ (circled). These feathers are refered to as being ‘in pin’ where the actual feather is furled within a tube of waxy material. The chicks will soon start to preen themselves to remove this covering and gradually release the feathers. Some tail feathers are also developing but its the all-important body feathers that are needed to give them proper protection from the wind and rain. Until then they will still be reliant on the adults to keep them warm and dry in bad weather.

With a regular 6 or 7 feeds a day all the chicks are doing well though. The male is now doing some of the feeding – also seen in the image above – but being that much smaller than the female is now not able to cover the chicks to brood them, despite his enthusiasm to do so.

Remember, this is only Day 15 for the oldest chick. Barely 2 weeks ago these chicks had only just struggled from the confines of an eggshell.

Here’s a lovely video of some solid peregrine parenting!

David Gittens | Volunteer – Wildlife CCTV,
Hawk and Owl Trust – Sculthorpe Moor

For the live video stream, and to help with the costs of running our webcam please visit www.upp.hawkandowl.org/live/

4 Responses to Cathedral Peregrines Update | 15 May 2013

  1. Why haven’t they more shelter and protection against the rain. The ones in Bath seem to have overhead protection.

  2. An interesting theory regarding the female only being able to cover four chicks, they do sometimes lay and hatch five eggs but I wonder what percentage reach fledging.
    Certainly when hatched the young birds have only a thin covering of down and are unable to keep themselves warm, however after about ten days the chicks grow a thicker secondary down which keeps them a lot warmer. At this time, if the weather is fair, the female will often leave the chicks under the watchful eye of the male and go of hunting. It will be interesting to see at what stage the female is prepared to leave the chicks without cover.

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