Hope Springs Anew in 2015
2014 was a challenging year for a number of reasons including a cold start, four eggs that didn't hatch, a black fly infestation and early fledge for little Macintosh. We watched our resilient falcon family handle the harsh realities of nature and we all learned lessons along the way.
The new season brings with it a crisp new camera, milder conditions so far, and our reliable and loyal Peregrine pair, Michele and Travis, returning on schedule with a productive start on a new generation. Michele spent the night in the nestbox on March 28th and surprised us with an early morning gift wrapped in brown speckles. Both birds have been taking turns guarding their treasure. These two are such wonderful parents. They make great role models if any other falcons are watching out there.
The property on which these falcons choose to make their home is protected with a conservation easement held and enforced by the Minnesota Land Trust. Any contributions donated on this site will go towards protecting additional habitat for these marvelous raptors.
03/29/2012 Michelle Lays 3rd Egg at 6:54 p.m. (around 3:58 into the video)
About the GSB Project
The Raptor Resource Project installed a nest box here after falcons tried nesting on a ledge that was accessible to raccoon. The box was adopted by a pair of falcons in 2005. Young falcons have fledged here every year since. Great Spirit Bluff is owned by the Howe family. Jonathon Howe, son of John and Susan, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 479 in Eden Prairie, MN. He needed a project to advance to Eagle rank and was interested in working with falcons. Jonathon and his father designed and built four special nestboxes with lids that flip up and cover the box. These boxes have two wonderful features: they are accessible from the top, which means we don't have to lean over a roof to get the babies and (when open) they keep young falcons from jumping out. Human banders and young falcons are safer as a result.
Jonathon also helped plan the deployment of the camera here. He and troop members and friends pulled the cable to the edge of the cliff, dug the cable trench, and buried the cable. We are very pleased with the results.
Why don't falcons build a nest?
Peregrine falcons do not bring nesting material to an area to build a nest. Instead, they make what is called a scrape or shallow depression in existing gravel or other debris by lying down and pushing back with a foot. They naturally nest on cliff areas. Gravel retains heat which is beneficial during incubation.
When will the falcons lay eggs?
They will most likely lay in late March or early April. Peregrine falcons tend to lay eggs between 48-72 hours apart and do not generally incubate them until after the third egg has been laid.
How long does it take the eggs to hatch?
Generally, the eggs should start hatching 33-34 days after the third egg is laid, or after incubation begins.
How long from pip to actual hatch?
Studies show the time from pip to hatch to be anywhere from 50-72 hours. According to Glenn R. Stewart Coordinator at the Predatory Bird Research Group at Long Marine Lab, U of Cal. Santa Cruz, "The chick has a "hatching muscle" in its neck that swells with lymph and begins to spasm toward the time for hatching. In doing so, the beak with its sharp egg tooth at the tip is forced through the membrane separating the air cell from the embryo. The chick pokes its beak into the air cell and begins the transition from gas exchange to lung breathing. With the beginning of lung breathing, it is able to cheep even though there is no break in the shell. Soon, the air cell fills with carbon dioxide and the chick's hatching muscle again spasms forcing the egg tooth through the shell creating a star-shaped break or "pip" that allows air to enter the shell. The chick rests for a good long time, cheeping from time to time and hearing Mother's vocalizations of encouragement in return. Eventually, and with gaining strength, the chick begins cutting its way around the equator of the shell by pulling itself along using little vestigial claws located at the alula (thumb) feather to turn inside its cramped shell. All of this takes about fifty hours-they do not simply shrug off the shell and erupt into the outside world."
When and who bands the young falcons?
Falcons are banded around 3 weeks of age. Bob Anderson and his team will rappel down the bluff to collect the eyasses for banding.
When do the young falcons start flying?
They will fledge at roughly 40 days of age.
How can I tell the male and female apart?
In general, female peregrines are about 30% larger than the males. In our nest, we have also noted some distinguishing markings. Michelle has a small amount of white feathers just above her beak, her head is more broad, and she has a bull horns marking in the white feathers on the side of her neck. Travis has all dark feathering above his beak, a smaller rounder head, and a brighter yellow beak.
How old are the pair and how long have they been nesting here?
Travis is 12 years old (a 2003 hatch from Lee's Bluff Lynxville WI - band 06/N). Michelle is 10 years old (a 2005 hatch from Maasen Bluff, WI - band P/87). We identified this pair at Great Spirit Bluff in 2012, but they could have been nesting at this site as far back as 2007. The last previous recorded band reading on a different female at this nest was Katrinka in 2006.