Diamond, Xavier, and the eggs

Whew! It was a terrifically busy day yesterday in Bird World and it was all good. To recap Yurruga did a beautiful fledge at 6:03:54 Monday 22 November (camera time). Bazzy officially flew a little over three hours later at 09:25:45. If that was not enough, Cornell’s Red Tail Hawk couple, Big Red and Arthur, were spotted on a branch together at BeeBee Lake. It was all together amazing. Bazza did cause a search party to go out but, in the end, he returned safely to the nest at 10:24:48. Ervie had left quite a large piece of fish and Bazza was very happy to finish it off.

Cilla Kinross posted this news about Yurruga.

Dr Kinross also posted this video of the event.

Everyone has been concerned about Diamond and her eggs. It seemed the closer Yurruga came to fledging, the more broodier Diamond became. We know that one egg was unviable. There is indication that the other egg had a chick that tried to break out of the shell but was just not strong enough as evidenced by the egg-tooth make a hole in the shell and seeing the beak.

Diamond used up a lot of her good health making those three eggs. She would have depleted her calcium and lost about 20-30% of her weight. Now that Yurruga has fledged it is time for Diamond to get herself back into tip top form.

Around 11:47, Dr Kinross removed the two eggs from the scrape box. She is going to check to see if the National Museum would like them for their collection. Diamond was not happy hearing voices inside the tower.

It seemed each time Cilla tried to get one of the eggs, Diamond would come calling loudly. Cilla tried to shooo her away. In the end both eggs were retrieved. Diamond returned to her scrape now devoid of eggs and began ‘scraping’ the area.

It is difficult not to feel sorry for Diamond. Her chick has fledged and she is still feeling the urge to mother.

Even Xavier has returned today to the scrape box to look for the eggs.

It is very sad trying to understand what Xavier and Diamond are feeling. I am busy reading Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff’s Ten Truths and Bekoff’s The Emotional Lives of Animals. Can the actions of Diamond and Xavier be anything but a sense of confusion – where did the eggs go, they were here? and sadness. They were ‘potential chicks’.

Decades ago there was a guinea hen that arrived at the little acreage in Southern Manitoba. Having not see her in the attic of the barn for some time she was found incubating at least two dozen eggs. She had made a nest cup in the grass. There was no mate; the eggs were infertile. She would have risked her health or life as she was broody. They had to be broken. This past spring we witnessed Milda, the White-tailed Eagle in Durbe County, Latvia try and incubate eggs after her mate, Ramsis, had not returned. For eight days she remained much to the detriment of her health. It is with delight that Milde is back with a new mate Mr L working on her nest.

This is the latest report on Annie and Grinnell. It is from the Instagram Feed for Cal Falcons:

Oh, I so hope that Grinnell will come to the scrape. He might not feel 100% secure in taking on the interloper. Only time will reveal what will happen with this love triangle. I am reminded when I say that of the very happy Bald Eagle Nest on the Mississippi River with Star and the two males, Valor I and II. For several years that nest has benefited from having three parents. I wonder?????

And with that thought I am off. It is a horrible grey white day on the prairies. It is -8 C.

Thank you so much for joining me. I will continue to monitor the news on both of these peregrine falcon nests. Take care everyone. Stay safe. See you soon.

Thank you to Charles Sturt University and Cilla Kinross for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots and the Instagram account for Annie and Grinnell.

Yurruga

Yurruga is 43 days old.

Yurruga is a Peregrine Falcon whose parents, Xavier and Diamond, have their scrape on the water tower at Charles Sturt University in Orange, Australia. Soon this beautiful fully feathered falcon will take its first flight out to that world that it is becoming increasingly interested in.

There are, according to Helen MacDonald in her book, Falcon, “60-odd species of the falcon family Falconidae…Those species are subdivided into four groups: the largely insectivorous hobbies, the tiny, bird-killing merlins, the kestrels and…the large falcons which are divided into two groups, the peregrines and the desert falcons.” The Falco Pereginus or the peregrines are fast flying hunters in the open air whose physical traits have developed over millions of years.

In the world of falconry, the female peregrine is called a falcon while the male is called a tiercel. In French, tiercel means a third indicating that the male is roughly 1/3 the size of the female.* This is called sexual dimorphism. Many also believe that the third hatch is always a male, a tiercel.

Yurruga has incredible vision. In The Peregrine by JA Baker, he says, “The eyes of a falcon peregrine weigh approximately one ounce each; they are larger and heavier than human eyes. If our eyes were in the same proportion to our bodies as the peregrine’s are to his, a twelve stone man would have eyes three inches across weighing four pounds.” * White goes on to say that the whole retina of a hawk’s eye records objects “twice as acute as that of the human retina…with a resolution eight times as great as ours.” Helen MacDonald states that while humans have one fovea and falcons have two enabling them to have two images of the same object fused in their brain.*** Humans have three receptors – red, green, and blue but falcons have four. We have three-dimensional colour vision, falcons can see four. In other words, these magnificent slate grey birds with their streaked chests, yellow cere and legs are far superior in their vision than we could ever wish to equal.

Southern falcons, such as Yurruga, are said to have significantly larger beaks than northern birds. Historically it was believed that these evolved for killing parrots. Researchers today are not quite sure of the discrepancy in size between the two geographical locations.

Peregrines also have a tomial tooth. This is a razor sharp point shaped like a triangle on the outer edges of the upper mandible that fits into a slot in the lower mandible. They use this tooth to bite into the neck of their prey to cut the vertebrae killing the bird instantly.

Sometimes Yurruga sits on the ledge of the scrape box with her mother, Diamond, looking out on the family’s territory.

Once Yurruga fledges, her parents, Diamond and Xavier, will teach her to hunt and will supply her with prey until she makes her very first kill. Yurruga will normally leave the parent’s territory after 4-6 weeks of training.

In the image below, you can clearly see Yarruga’s tomial tooth and her large eyes. She looks so much like a falcon today as opposed to a nestling. She is a gorgeous bird. Some viewers and chatters have gotten upset when Yurruga is aggressive with either Diamond or Xavier. Cilla Kinross said, “Shrinking violets won’t last long in the real world.” So true. Sadly, the survival rate of falcons in their first year is low. We know that Yurruga’s brother, Izzi, was thriving and we hope that she will, too.

One last observation. Diamond has been broody lately. She has incubated or fiddled with the eggs on numerous occasions. This could just be hormones or the physical eggs being there triggering Diamond. But, I wonder if she understands that ‘her baby’ will only be in the scrape a little while longer and she wants to ‘mother’?

In the middle of the night, Diamond was looking at her beautiful daughter.

As winter sets in, we are all looking for some good reads. There are many field guides that feature falcons but it is difficult cuddly up with a field guide. Looking at my bookshelf, I can see any number of them. If, however, you are looking for a really good read to understand the cultural history of falcons and their mythology, I highly recommend (and have done so many times) Helen MacDonald’s Falcon. MacDonald is an excellent and knowledgable writer that easily draws you into her respect and love for these birds. If you have exhausted the guides and have all three of MacDonald’s books, then there is another one. It is a small book illustrated by Welsh artist, Jackie Morris. She is incredibly talented. It is called Queen of the Sky and tells about the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of a peregrine falcon in Wales. An enjoyable read. Morris has a great website full of her wonderful animal stories and bird images.

https://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/

Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay warm! and safe!

Thank you to Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross for their streaming cam where I took my screen captures.

*The males are 7.62- 10 cm or 3-4 inches shorter than the females who are 43 to 50.9 cm or 17 to 20 inches long.

** 12 stone is 76.20 kg or 168 lbs

*** The fovea is the tiny pit located in the macula of the eye’s retina. It allows light to fall directly on the cones to give extremely sharp images.

Reflecting on Melbourne’s sadness

I would have moved on to a different topic but several of my readers have written to me sad and frustrated that nothing was done to treat the ill peregrine falcon nestling in Melbourne. Others are very concerned that if the little male’s corpse is not removed, other, larger birds of prey might consume it and get ill. Each raises some interesting moral and ethical issues as well as practical and legal ones.

As in all cases, it is good for readers to know where the writer stands on matters so to be clear – I encourage banding of birds and the use of sat-paks for tracking information in research. I do not believe we have too many birds and I take the position of Rosalie Edge that we must know the numbers we have to be able to determine if they are dwindling. I promote safe fishing practices to protect all seabirds. I also believe that humans have had a catastrophic impact on our planet and that the fine line of when to intervene or not is blurred. I believe that animals and birds have a positive impact on human life. I know, from all the letters I receive from each of you daily, that the streaming cams of the birds has added a level of joy to your lives that many did not think possible. Many have written to me who were dying of cancer saying that the streaming cams of the birds took their mind off themselves. How wonderful. As a former university faculty member with numerous research projects, I know that permissions, specific protocols, and agreements are made and it is not always easy to tweak these. In other words, some researchers hands are simply bound and they can do nothing even if they wanted.

There is a treatment protocol for Trichomoniasis in peregrine falcons. (There is also treatments for song birds and I thank ‘L’ for reminding me of this). I am posting the first page of an article in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery. The abstract at the top gives a very good synopsis of the paper. (I have yet to find a free PDF so I can post the article in its entirety).

It is unclear how practical it would be to treat wild birds such as the male on the ledge. Indeed, there could be legal issues for the researchers that do not allow for any intervention. That is something that has to be realized.

This brings me to the second concern of my readers – the corpse of the young male left on the scrape box. Peregrine Falcons are very particular about what they eat. I am not concerned about the other chicks and I do not know what other birds in the area might venture up to that high of a level for carrion. In a rural area where there could be vultures, I would be very concerned. And in my own urban area, I note that gulls will eat anything. So, yes, I am also concerned and hope that the body is removed and disposed of properly.

This was an unusual year watching this pair of Peregrine Falcons raise their chicks. At the onset, I stated that the majority of the prey items would be pigeons. As you will have noticed, there have been a variety of birds including what appears to be one of the released Peace Doves in yesterday’s Remembrance Day celebrations yesterday. So was this caused by there not being as many pigeons as normal? And is this because there has been bouts of Trichomoniasis within the species in Melbourne that has killed off numbers of the birds?

Where is the male falcon that fledged? We have seen the two large sibling sisters with their little brother. Is it possible that that little male also ingested enough of the diseased bird to be impacted?

There could be answers for the question around the disease killing off large populations of Melbourne’s pigeons. I will try and find out. I doubt if we will ever know the answer to the question about the other male unless it is found and identified and a post-mortem conducted. I truly hope that I am wrong and it just doesn’t want to fly that high yet!

I really want to thank all of you that reached out over the past week and those today. You show a genuine concern for the wildlife and birds which is refreshing and hopeful. I will, most likely, put this little one to rest now. Your letters are always welcome. Your concerns are never trivial. Thank you for caring!

Send your warm wishes to Diamond

Diamond, the female at the Charles Stuart University scrape box in Orange, Australia, was away from the scrape for ten hours a few days ago. When she returned her right wing was droopy and she was limping slightly. Xavier, the male, has been doing the hunting and feeding little Yarruga, their three week old plus 2 day chick, its meals. Xavier is getting more proficient with each feeding!

Diamond slept in the scrape box last night with little Yarruga. She was standing on ‘her’ rocks in the corner.

When she went to go to the ledge to fly out for a break, she could not put weight on her right foot and stumbled.

She fell down, got up and stumbled some more.

Just watching her trying to make it to the ledge to fly off made you realize how difficult it is for her to heal. It will be a long process. She doesn’t have the ability to put a lounge chair in a tree or in the scrape box and elevate that leg. Anyone who has sprained an ankle or hurt their foot can have great sympathy with this devoted Mum. Of course, Yarruga had no idea what was going on.

Xavier arrived at 07:03:06 with a very prepared fat pigeon for little Yarruga. He might have been expecting Diamond to be in the scrape and feed their baby. He hesitated.

All Yarruga wanted was breakfast and she began to make her way over to Dad.

At that point, Xavier realizes he is on feeding duty and dragged the carcass into the middle of the scrape, away from the ledge so the baby wouldn’t accidentally fall out.

Yarruga was delighted. Dad is getting very good at this!

Little Yarruga is so cute. She will go into the corner when she is full to the brim. Xavier always has to check to make sure she doesn’t want anymore!

Xavier makes his way over to the ledge. I am hoping that he shares that lovely breakfast with Diamond.

Send Diamond your warmest wishes.

Port Lincoln has confirmed that the trio will be banded Monday, 8 November – Australian time. The bander is arriving from Adelaide. I do not know the time.

Thanks for joining me. I knew that you would want to know how Diamond is doing. We all hope that she is well soon but, in reality, it will take some time. There is no need to panic. Xavier is doing a wonderful job. No worries for little Yarruga. Dad is definitely up to the job.

Take care everyone.

Thank you to Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross and the Port Lincoln Osprey Project streaming cams where I took my screen captures.