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South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007

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Feeding

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.

South Coast Peregrine rearing Herring Gull chicks 2014

One of the joys of studying wild Peregrines (and there are many), is the sense of anticipation as to what one might witness during that next field trip. Such was the case, when we first discovered, and filmed, one of our study pairs raising three Herring Gull chicks.

We had been fortunate, to watch a video of the same behaviour, filmed by talented amateur cameraman P. Chaney having been discovered by R.Baker. This footage was captured on the Dorset coast, but not for one second, did we ever expect to see the same for ourselves.

It was on the morning of May 30th, that we had our first encounter. I was in the company of Steve Watson, a good friend of the group, who had journeyed down from Gloucestershire for a couple of days birding. We arrived at the site, for a routine check on the breeding status of the resident pair. After briefly scanning the home cliff, I located the falcon.She was clearly brooding chicks, as I watched through the scope, my jaw dropped, as the head of the first baby Gull appeared. I turned to Steve, and relayed what i’d seen, he bundled me away from the eyepiece,and after a few seconds he too got his first glimpse. I’ve never heard Steve swear before, but he turned to me and simply uttered a couple of words that i couldn’t possibly repeat here. We watched for a couple of hours, after which we were forced to leave, to fulfil another appointment. We returned in the evening, with both Greg and his camera to capture the first video.

Our next visit to the site, was equally special. The young Gulls are thriving and as you will see in the following footage (which was filmed on the 12th of June), we managed to capture the youngsters being fed by a very confused Peregrine. We hope you are as astonished with what we were fortunate to witness.
Cheers for now
Roger Finnamore

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