Last month in my post about Peregrine Falcons–Banding Day, pictures showed two very white, downy, awkward-looking birds with huge yellow beaks. When I visited the Williamsport side of the bridge on Friday, I was amazed to see how quickly they had matured. The smaller chick, a male, was now 40 days old, which is certainly old enough to have fledged. Some Peregrines fledge as young as 35 days, but this one was dragging his feet, er, wings. The younger chick with the downy “pantaloons”, will need a few more days before she’s ready. Dan Brauning with the Game Commission set up a schedule with 4-hour shifts for observers in boats and on the bank of the South Williamsport side of the river to watch for falling chicks. The mortality rate at this stage is very high, but so far they have survived gusty storms, fireworks just overhead, and the exercising of their wings on narrow ledges without falling into the water.
It’s amazing to see Cliff swallows nesting just above and near the Peregrines, considering they sometimes end up as lunch. The young female is enjoying leg of Cliff swallow in the picture below. You can see how the swallows have stuck little balls of wet clay together to make their nests under the bridge. They are colonial nesters and will sometimes pick up an egg they have laid and put it in their neighbor’s nest according to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Cliff_Swallow/lifehistory.
These young Peregrines are quite handsome and should be flying around very soon. The female will be ready once she loses her downy pantaloons. In the meantime, they rest, they perch right on the edge and do their wing flapping to exercise their wings, eat, and sleep. Mom and Dad are either watching nearby or busy finding their next meal. They scream encouragement from the next bridge support and they have attacked big dogs that get too close on the bike trail. Glad we didn’t know that when we hung out so close to their perch!