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South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007

Month

June 2015

Behavioural Query

Having recently been contacted via email we were asked to comment on an observed behaviour by Gemma and her partner whilst out walking the coast-path.

I’m hoping someone from your group might be able to help explain some behaviour we saw of a pair of peregrines close to P******** in Cornwall towards the end of May. A female was on a kill of a feral pigeon with an adult male nearby. The male was calling a lot whilst the female was plucking the bird. At one point they were both feeding but then we saw the female feed the male a few times. I don’t know if this is unusual but the male was clearly an adult and we thought if it was  a pair bonding thing it would be more usual for the male to give food to the female?

Gemma was kind enough to supply an image of this as well.

Female feeds Male

It’s quite common for well adjusted and close-bonded pairs to feed each other. The Females will chup with every beak-full they feed to a male, just as if he were a chick.
Often it is the female feeding her mate that is observed, but it has also been observed for males to feed females, especially when she is incubating eggs or close-brooding chicks during bad weather.
Often, adults feeding each other is indeed a pair-bonding thing but it can also be habit/hormone based, particularly in the breeding season. It might be thought that, in pair bonding, the male would feed his mate, but he has already dramatically adjusted from his instinctive behaviour by giving up a kill to the female.
If the birds have been tandem-hunting, the female will usually carry the kill back home, and then give up the head to the male. If he is not satisfied with that alone, he will solicit for food and is usually fed for a while.
See the videos here of a pair slightly out of sync in the breeding season. The male is given the head, but wants more. He is fed by his mate, but then takes the whole kill for himself and she does not retaliate in nay way.
(This particular pair failed on a single egg, probably due to being out of sync with each other, this despite the male doing everything ‘right’ up until mid-March.)

We very much thank Gemma for her email and comments, it just goes to show the more that you observe the more you will learn or the more questions you can raise putting theories to the test. No two pairs behave in the same manor due to numerous factors, so it is always worth sitting and watching rather than taking for granted what we have read or seen before.

An opportunity to witness Cooperative Attacks by Urban Peregrines on Common Buzzard.

Sunday 7th of June members of South West Peregrine joined Urban Peregrine researcher’s Nick Dixon and Andrew Gibbs, the co-authors of the British Birds Article ‘Cooperative Attacks By Urban Peregrine on Common Buzzard’ (May 2015 Issue), opposite the home of the study pair at  St Michael’s & All Angels Church, Exeter. A small team of watchers all alone on a multi-story car park roof, armed only with binoculars, scope, flasked coffee and notebook. 

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We had arrived early and already the Tiercel was in the air as we got into position, an alarm call being directed at the Falcon as he began to ring up (series of flaps and glide in a tight circle, gaining height on an early thermal) made him easy to pick out in the clear blue skies. The Falcon, now sat upright, alerted, on the gable end above the eyrie (a box installed and located behind a trefoil),looked on at her mate; calculating her route to join him. A Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) came into our view, effortless gliding and roughly following  the course of the River Exe far below; at this point still unaware of the dangers of drifting into this ferociously guarded territory.

It is worth noting that the two young are only days away from estimated fledging with the young male expected to go on Thursday 11th of June (42 days from hatching). So no threat is directly posed to the young eyasses from this passing raptor at this point in time.DSC_2481

The Tiercel quickly reached a height just above the Buzzard, still hecking his alarm, the Falcon had by now left her perch and with rapid wing beats headed on a looping course behind the Church spire, climbing quickly to join her mate. Before she arrived in position the first stoop from the male on the Buzzard was witnessed, not a full speed attack and not directly at it, but in doing so the Buzzard now knew it was in danger. A second and more threatening stoop this time by the female made this threat intensify. The Male was now almost instantly, back in position above the Buzzard, who was heading in a South Westerly direction, within seconds the Tiercel was in again, quicker and now more threatening himself this time around.

Nowhere to hide

Calling from the pair could still be heard from our vantage point and we watched in awe as the Falcon was once again diving at the helpless buzzard; It flipped onto its back presenting its talons has a means of defence. It began to lose height deliberately and wing beats where seen has it tried to make its retreat. We witnessed 14 stoops in all before the Buzzard made good his escape and the pair turned back toward the spire. 

Exeter May 15_078

What we witnessed as a group over the next 4 hours will go down as one of the most remarkable accounts in our relatively short 8 years as a group watching Peregrine Falcons together. Nine attacks in all where witnessed, both Adults spent the majority of this time in the air defending this territory only briefly returning to pitch in on the Spire or Cross, always remaining on high alert. Attacks seemed to be called off once the intruder was approximately 1km away from the Church Spire (in any direction) A number of hits on Buteo buteo where observed, these seemed in the main to be by the larger and possibly more aggressive Falcon.

The Maximum number of attacks by the pair on this beautiful morning was 45 in total; one buzzard was sent spiralling to the ground, seemingly having flown its last flight. However on trying to recover this bird it was seen making an escape first to a nearby tree and then into a clump of trees in a nearby garden. During this time both birds remained on high alert and 2 level flight attacks were launched from the spire until the were certain any imposed threat had passed.

Exeter May 15_Feathers fly

We said our goodbyes at around 13:00, the afternoon watch was about to commence, what we had witnessed formed the basis of conversation all the way back to Plymouth.

Anyone wishing to read the full detailed account of the Dixon/Gibbs Study helped by local watchers should read the published Article in British Birds

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SWP thank Nick Dixon and Andrew Gibbs for the opportunity to join them and in their sharing so much knowledge.

Check out Nick Dixon’s profile as an Urban Peregrine research specialist on his website

‘Quarry Falcon’ – Limited edition signed print is now available

Available Now – 100 copies of this fine ‘Quarry Falcon at rest’ by local Artist David A. Scott so do not delay.

Dave Scott - Artist, South Devon
David A. Scott – Artist, South Devon

You had better be quick if you want to be the owner of one of these fabulous Limited edition and numbered signed prints.

At a very reasonable price of £55 plus £7 P&P the item will be shipped to your home, It will be protected in a special Art mailer tube to ensure its safe arrival.

Only 100 copies are being produced and early signs are that they will be going quickly with much interest already being showed.

The dimensions are 17” x 23” ; printed onto a 300gsm watercolour paper using lightfast inks which are guaranteed by the manufacturer for 100yrs we are informed.

The original picture was painted in Acrylic onto board & the image size was 24”x 19” (already sold in a matter of days after completion)

Please contact Roger on the following email mail@southwestperegrine.org.uk to place your order. Alternatively Call on 07864877125.

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