Archive for the 'Nesting & Courtship' Category

Mar 14 2016

Mallards Make Ducklings

Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) are common ducks in the northern hemisphere so their courtship behavior is easy to observe.  Here are tips on what you’ll see in March as they prepare for nesting next month.

Did you know that mallards are already paired up by now?  They start forming pair bonds in September and most have a mate by the end of the year.  This leaves some unattached bachelors however because their sex ratio is usually skewed — 1.33 males for every female.

Now that they’re paired up they get down to the serious business of making baby mallards.  The video above shows several characteristic moves and sounds of a paired couple:

  • Head bobbing: a pre-copulatory action that gets them in tune with each other.
  • Inciting:  The female (all brown) incites the male by dipping her bill in the water over her shoulder.
  • Leading: He turns back his head, then swims away from her to lead her away from the crowd; she follows.
  • Vocalizations: He whistles. She quacks loudly (only the females make the loud quacking sound).

The excitement went out of the pair shown above, but the video below shows head bobbing and copulation. Notice that the male always grabs the female by the back of the neck as he mounts her.  After mating the pair bridles (rears up) and steams (swims with head low).  Sometimes the male turns back his head and leads again.

Mallards are monogamous but Cornell Lab’s Birds of North America says that “paired males actively pursue forced extra pair copulations” — a polite name for what looks like gang rape.  Knowing this, the paired males stay close to their females to protect them during the egg laying period.

After egg laying their match falls apart.  Male mallards desert their mates during incubation and won’t pair up again until autumn.  They can afford to do this because the females incubate alone and the ducklings are precocious.

So it’s only once a year that wild mallards make ducklings.

 

(videos from YouTube. Click on the YouTube links to see the originals)

One response so far

Mar 13 2016

First Egg at Pitt for 2016

Peregrine, nicknamed Hope, with her first egg of 2016 (snasphot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Peregrine, nicknamed Hope, with her first egg of 2016 (snasphot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope laid her first egg of the season at 9:32am today, 13 March 2016.

Congratulations, Hope and E2!

Watch the falconcam by clicking here or on the photo.

 

(screenshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning)

p.s. Here’s why she isn’t sitting on the eggs yet: http://www.birdsoutsidemywindow.org/peregrine-faqs/question-sitting-on-eggs-or-not/

27 responses so far

Mar 09 2016

All The Right Moves

SW and Boomer in courtship flight, Cleveland, Ohio (photo by Chad + Chris Saladin)

SW and Boomer fly upside down in courtship flight, Cleveland, Ohio (photo by Chad + Chris Saladin)

Peregrine falcon courtship is underway in Pittsburgh but you’re missing a lot if you only see it on camera.

Peregrines have many courtship rituals that get them in tune for the breeding season.   Here’s what you’ll see at any one of Pittsburgh’s seven peregrine territories.  Click on the links below for additional descriptions and photos.

  1. Prominent perching:  Peregrines perch in prominent locations to show they own the place.  Established pairs perch near each other.
  2. Cooperative hunting: The pair goes out hunting together.  He kicks up a flock while she stoops on likely prey.
  3. Ledge Displays:  Peregrines display on the nest ledge over the scrape, at first alone then as a pair.  These are the only displays you’ll see on the falconcams.
  4. Courtship Flights:  Peregrines court in the air with speed and precision.  They even fly upside down (shown above).
  5. Food Transfers:  The male provides food for his mate.
  6. Copulation: Here’s how it’s done.

 

In our area the females lay eggs between mid March and early April, one egg every other day. Watch for the first egg at the Cathedral of Learning and Gulf Tower on the falconcams.

How will you know an egg is due soon?  The female will start to spend the night at the scrape a few days before her first egg.

In the meantime, our peregrines are making all the right moves.  Eggs coming soon.

 

(photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

19 responses so far

Mar 04 2016

Getting In Tune

If you’ve been watching the Gulf Tower and Cathedral of Learning falconcams this month, you’ve seen the peregrines bowing and “chirping” to each other in courtship display.  Their rituals cement their pair bond and get them in tune with each other for the breeding season.

Some birds have fancier courtship displays.  Pairs of waved albatrosses (Phoebastria irrorata) get reacquainted after six months at sea by doing a courtship dance.

The video above shows their elaborate ritualized moves: bill clacking, rapid bill circling, bowing, touching the ground and their sides with their beaks, raising their bills, and making a whoo sound.  You have to visit the Galápagos to see them as it’s the only place where they breed.

The pairs do their dance in time for the female to lay her single egg in April to June.  Nestlings reach adult size in December and leave the colony by January to forage at sea until they reach maturity at 5-6 years old.

During El Niño there is too little food to raise a family so many birds don’t breed at all.  This year is a hard one for the waved albatross.

Sadly, this species is critically endangered.  The waved albatross’ range is confined to the Galápagos and the Humboldt current off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador.  Though long-lived, these birds are slow to reproduce and their population is declining, especially at the hands of longline fishing.

It’s quite a privilege to see them dance.

 

(video from Peregrine Travel Centre Adelaide on YouTube)

2 responses so far

Mar 02 2016

Setting Up Housekeeping at the Gulf Tower

Dori arrives to join Louie in courtship at the Gulf Tower nest (photo from National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori arrives to join Louie in courtship at the Gulf Tower nest (photo from National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower). Click on the photo for a bigger view.

Pittsburgh Peregrine Fans are pleased as punch that Dori and Louie have taken a new and intensive interest in the Gulf Tower nest.

For the past four years they’ve flipped from site to site instead of choosing the Gulf Tower that peregrines had used continuously since 1991.  In 2012 and 2013 they left Gulf for a nook at 322 Fourth Avenue. In 2014 they returned, but last year (2015) they left for Macy’s Annex.

In December the PA Game Commission’s peregrine coordinator, Art McMorris, refurbished the Gulf Tower nest in hopes it would entice the peregrines back to stay.  Since February 24 the signs have been very good:

  • Louie and Dori both visit the nest area:  The photo above shows them about to court on February 27.  Click on the image for a bigger view.
  • Louie calls for Dori to arrive:  Amazingly, he even calls to her at night. Click here to watch him calling her at 2:00am on February 29.
  • The pair courts at the scrape by bowing and “chirping” to each other.  Click here to see their courtship at WildEarth.tv archives.
  • Dori frequently perches near the nest or at the scrape. (The scrape is the actual nest site, a shallow depression where she’ll lay her eggs.)
  • Dori has dug two scrapes and continues to enlarge them.  See photos below.
Dori digs the scrape on the left (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori digs the scrape on the left (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori walks over to the other side ... (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori walks over to the other side … (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori digs the scrape on the right (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori digs the scrape on the right (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori is setting up housekeeping at the Gulf Tower so we’re hoping she’ll lay her eggs here this year.  The real confirmation will be her first egg, due to arrive in mid to late March.

You can watch what she’s up to on the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower.

 

(snapshots from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

7 responses so far

Feb 26 2016

Life’s A Stage

 

Here’s a light-hearted look at the serious business of courtship among the birds-of-paradise.

Happy Friday!

 

(video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology on YouTube)

No responses yet

Feb 24 2016

Only A Mother Could Love

Anhinga with young in nest (photo by shellgame via Flicker Creative Commons license)

Anhinga with young in nest (photo by shell game via Flicker Creative Commons license)

Last Sunday at Wakodahatchee Wetlands I was pleased to see anhinga nestlings up close even though the small ones are rather ugly.

Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga) nest colonially in woody shrubs above water during south Florida’s dry season (November to May) because low water levels concentrate the fish and make them easier to catch.

Newly hatched anhingas are pale, naked and reptile-like though their eyes are open*.  The females lay eggs up to four days apart and begin incubation immediately so the young in recently hatched nests range in size and appearance from small naked hatchlings to large downy first-born.

The nestlings beg with their mouths closed and their gular pouches extended (the skin beneath their beaks), asking their parents to dole out food by regurgitation.

Below, an older nestling has his head inside his mother’s mouth to get food from her gular pouch while the younger one on the left looks angular because he’s begging with extended gular skin.  His throat looks bigger than the top of his head!

Anhinga feeding its young while second nestling begs (photo by shellgame via Flicker Creative Commons license)

Anhinga feeding nestling while second nestling begs (photo by shell game via Flicker Creative Commons license)

 

Eventually the youngest catch up to the oldest … still with faces that only a mother (and father) could love.

Anhinga nestlings (photo by Jimmy Smith via Flickr Creative Commons license)

Anhinga nestlings (photo by Jimmy Smith via Flickr Creative Commons license)

 

(photos by shell game and Jimmy Smith via Flickr, Creative Commons Atrribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial License)

3 responses so far

Feb 21 2016

Three Eggs at the Hays Eagle Nest


Third bald eagle egg at Hays

Since yesterday afternoon at about 2pm there are now three eggs at the Hays bald eagle nest in the City of Pittsburgh.

In backwards order, the egg above is the 3rd one (February 20). The video below is the second one, laid on February 16. Click here for the first one on February 13.


Second bald eagle egg at Hays

There are still no eggs at Pittsburgh’s other webcam eagle nest at Harmar, but by the time you read this it may have changed.

As always, watch the Hays and Harmar eaglecams on the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania website at eagles.aswp.org.   Read more on their Facebook page.

(videos of the Hays bald eagle near in Pittsburgh, PA from PixController’s Facebook page)

No responses yet

Feb 14 2016

First Eagle Egg At Hays, Feb. 13

Perhaps you’ve already heard the happy news …

(Pittsburgh, PA – February 13, 2016) It’s not yet Valentine’s Day, but love is in the air at the Hays Bald Eagle nest. This morning, Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania confirmed that the Hays eagles have one egg in the nest. The egg was laid overnight, when the Bald Eagle web camera was turned off. The egg was noticed at 7:30 am when the cam came back up, clearly showing one of the eagles sitting on an egg.

Watch two Pittsburgh-area bald eagle nests — both Hays and Harmar — on the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania website at eagles.aswp.org.   Read more on their Facebook page.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

p.s. This egg was laid four days earlier than her first egg in 2015.

(video from the Hays Eaglecam via PixController’s Facebook page)

No responses yet

Jan 27 2016

Eagle Season Starts With A Bang!

Harmar Bald Eagle carrying nesting material, March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Harmar bald eagle carrying nesting material in March 2013 (photo by Steve Gosser)

For one of Pittsburgh’s three bald eagle pairs, this year started off with a bang.

Since late 2013 the Harmar pair that nests along the Allegheny River have been hard to observe because PennDOT blocked off the nearest viewing area while building a replacement for the 107-year-old Hulton Bridge.  Steve Gosser took the photo above from that viewing location in March 2013. It’s been hard to get good photos for years.

Last October the new bridge was completed and dedicated but the eagle viewing area was still closed while PennDOT began to deconstruct the old bridge.  However …

Yesterday morning, in a flash of light and sound, the old Hulton Bridge was imploded into the river.  Here’s a video from Dave DiCello, posted at The Hulton Bridge Blog on Facebook. (Dave also filmed the Greenfield Bridge implosion last month.)

 

Staff from the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania were on hand to monitor the eagles just in case.  As ASWP reports below, the eagles weren’t affected at all. They were 3.4 miles away as the crow flies.  (The eagles would have flown along the river, which is even longer.)

The Harmar eagles were down river near the Fox Chapel Yacht Club at the time. Our staff member monitoring the eagles said that the birds “didn’t even flinch” at the sound of the implosion.

The eagle viewing zone at Harmar will be closed a while longer but you can watch this pair easily now on the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania website.  ASWP has both the Hays and Harmar eagles’ nests streaming live at eagles.aswp.org. Click here to watch.

And for more images of the Hulton Bridge coming down, check out The Hulton Bridge Blog on Facebook and this story with videos at KDKA.

 

(photo of Harmar female eagle, March 2013, by Steve Gosser. Video by Dave DiCello)

5 responses so far

« Prev - Next »