Richmond Falcon Cam

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fledging

Our three young falcons have grown quickly. Only a few scattered tufts of down remain and their juvenile plumage is almost fully grown in. Peregrine falcons typically fledge between 40-45 days after hatching.

The door-opener apparatus will be installed on the pen door on Tuesday morning, August 18th. This will mark 47 to 48 days since hatching for these falcons. The extra time ensures full feather development, and allows these birds to strengthen their flight muscles before attempting their first flights.

The “apparatus” is comprised of a weight, bungee cords, and a plastic bottle of ice attached to the pen door. As the ice melts it releases the weight and the door is slowly pulled open by the bungee cords. Depending on the temperature on the release date, the door should open about 2-4 hours after the trigger is attached. We have used this method successfully for three years. Though the adults become aggressive when we attach the device, they quickly calm down after we leave. Past releases have gone very smoothly, with the chicks typically walking from the pen or flying to the ledge, surveying their surroundings for a few minutes or hours, and then taking successful first flights.

DGIF personnel and skilled volunteers will be stationed in the area surrounding the nest building. This will allow us to track the young birds’ first efforts and ensure that they are capable of sustained, controlled flight. This monitoring effort will continue until we are confident in the flight abilities of the fledglings. Should one of the fledglings encounter difficulty and end up on the ground, DGIF staff will recover the fledgling and either return it to the ledge or ensure prompt treatment and transportation to a licensed rehabilitation facility if necessary.