Dorothy with chick on its back, 25 May 2015 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
UPDATE! THIS INFORMATION IS FROM 25 MAY 2015. READ THE LATEST peregrine news HERE.
MAY 25, 2015
It’s now obvious to us humans that Dorothy and E2’s chick is not normal. At 15 days old it should be walking around the nestbox and standing upright like a little Buddha. Instead it falls suddenly on its back, kicks and jerks and cannot right itself. It remains on its back for hours and Dorothy feeds it in this position. This is not normal.
It appears the chick has a birth defect which we humans could not see immediately. Dorothy and E2 are very experienced parents who know what healthy chicks look like (Dorothy has raised 42 young), and their extra attentive behavior from the start indicates to me they knew this chick has issues.
At age 16 Dorothy is old for a peregrine and, just like older human mothers, her eggs are more likely to result in birth defects. This is not new for Dorothy. Two years ago one of her two chicks hatched with seizures and died within a week. Unfortunate as it is, health problems are normal for a peregrine this old.
The Way of the Peregrine:
Peregrine falcons are precision flyers and hunters, the fastest animal on earth. They hunt at speeds of more than 200 miles an hour and kill prey in the air by capturing it with their feet. They must be in top physical condition to do this.
The goal of peregrine parents every year is to raise their offspring to become independent and leave home by the end of the summer. Peregrine youngsters are “weaned” from food deliveries as soon as they learn to hunt. They are not allowed to hang around home for handouts. That is the Way of the Peregrine.
This year’s chick is in poor condition for fulfilling its life goal of hunting on its own, leaving home, and eventually finding a mate. Dorothy and E2 have raised enough young that they know this. However they are devoted parents. Dorothy feeds the chick on its back (unusual!) and shelters it with her body even though it is too old for “baby” treatment. This looks odd because the chick is so large. Dorothy is not smothering it. She is “mothering” it.
Sad as it is, this is a natural event. Our normal human reaction is to intervene, however humans are the peregrines’ mortal enemy. For us to “steal” the chick, no matter how well-meaning we are, is very upsetting and a threat to Dorothy and E2. We humans are not as good at taking care of baby peregrines as their parents are.
Peregrine falcons are endangered in Pennsylvania and protected from human intrusion. Only those with proper permits are allowed to handle peregrines. The chicks are still banded in Pennsylvania because they are endangered. Banding Day — which will be this week — is the one moment when humans intrude/intervene. The chick will get a thorough health check at that time. [Note that an injured or diseased chick is given appropriate treatment. This chick may have an incurable birth defect.] We await the news on Banding Day.
Meanwhile if the chat, the camera, the news of this chick upsets you, I suggest with all due respect that you close your browser and give yourself a break.
Or switch to watching a peregrine nest with normal thriving chicks. Three of Dorothy’s grandkids are growing up in Rochester, New York. These are the nestlings of Beauty (Dorothy’s daughter) and her mate DotCa at RFalconcam. Click here or on their photo to watch.
Beauty & DotCa’s 3 chicks — Dorothy’s grandkids — 25May 2015 (photo from RFalconcam)
You can also watch the peregrines’ nest in Harrisburg on the Rachel Carson Building –> click here.
Unfortunately, many people may think Dorothy’s situation is what happens at all peregrine nests.
No. This is not normal.
(photos from the National Aviary snapshot camera at University of Pittsburgh and RFalconcam, Rochester, New York)
p.s. More cams to watch, suggested in the comments: