Drama at the Dutch Peregrine Falcon Nest
Wednesday, May 23 2007 @ 09:30 PM EDT
Contributed by: beans
Three eggs were laid. Before they were hatched, a female falcon entered
the nest while the father was brooding the eggs. He flew away, she
inspected the eggs, then left, never to be seen again. The three chicks
hatched April 14 and 15. On April 22 another female falcon arrived and
attacked the mother. The fight began at the nest box and continued in
the woods a short distance away. The mother was driven from the nest
and possibly mortally wounded because she did not return. The father
then took over the responsibilities of feeding and raising the chicks
by himself. The chicks were 7 and 8 days old, much too young to be
without a mother.
Viewers have watched and reported events unfold in the Hancock Wildlife Discussion Forum. They have been shocked to witness the intruding female falcon steal the prey brought to the nest by the father. This female has come to the nest box and even entered it several times a day. Viewers have been on the edge of their seats watching and worrying that the intruder would harm the chicks, but she never did. The cool weather, lack of food (partly due to the intruder taking it), and no mother to care for the chicks took its toll: one of the chicks died on April 28, only 13 days old. The two remaining chicks often huddled in the corner of the nest box alone. Being one third larger than the male, the mother would normally brood the chicks. With mother gone, they shivered and cried. The father worked unceasingly day after day to care for his chicks.
While viewers booed and hissed every time they witnessed the intruding female come into view, the father did not chase her away. When she stole the prey brought to the nest for the chicks, he would leave and come back with more prey. This was repeated over and over as viewers from around the world watched and cheered on the male, prayed for the chicks, and railed against the intruding female. She has been identified as S2, a falcon banded in Belgium who turned two years old this spring.
A surprising turn of events came about recently when the intruding female was seen huddling with the chicks in an apparent attempt to brood them. The chicks not only allowed this behavior but seemed to welcome it. Viewers now speculate that this female was intending to help with the chicks all along, but being relatively young and inexperienced, she needed time to adapt to the role of motherhood. Viewers have also speculated that the female appeared to have an injured foot, which may have prevented her from hunting on her own. Another speculation is that the intruder assumed the prey was meant for her, as a courtship gesture by the male.
Now the two young peregrines are preparing to fledge and have been vigorously exercising their wings, inside and outside the nest box.
To read a detailed log of the activities of this nest as reported by viewers from many different countries, please visit the thread in Other Raptors.