Wednesday April 18, 2018, 7:40am:
Yesterday was hatch day at the Cathedral of Learning nest but it was not a happy day. As the female peregrine Hope has done in the past, she killed and ate some of her young as they hatched. The status right now is:
- April 17, 8:10am: As the first egg began to hatch, Hope picked up the chick, killed and ate it. Her back was to the camera.
- April 17, 9:07am: As the second egg began to hatch, Hope opened the egg, killed and ate the chick in full camera view.
- April 17, 1:35pm: Terzo was on the eggs. Hope arrived and chirped for him to leave. She opened the 3rd egg, picked up the chick and carried it, but did not kill it. Hope eventually brooded the chick and the remaining egg.
- April 17, 4:55pm: Early evening: Terzo brought food. Hope fed the chick.
- April 18, 6:20am: Nest exchange at dawn. Terzo arrives with food. Hope feeds the chick. Then Terzo broods. 1 egg remains.
Why does Hope kill and eat her young?
We don’t know. This is such a rare occurrence that there’s no guidance from similar peregrine nests — they just don’t do this. Meanwhile every idea we come up with is a guess. I prefer not to wade into the guessing.
Yes, Hope kills and eats her chicks but there are two unusual habits that accompany it:
- Hope opens the egg. The hatching rule for all birds is this: Chicks must open the eggs themselves. At other peregrine falconcams notice that the mother watches but does not touch the shell until the chick has forced open the two halves. Later the mother eats the shell (which is normal). Raptors beaks are sharp and could damage the chick. Normal mother raptors do not use their beaks on the eggs.
- Hope picks up and carries the chick. Normal peregrines don’t pick up their hatchlings. When a chick is outside the scrape (nest bowl) the mother uses the underside of her closed beak to pull the chick back to her. Hope uses her closed beak to arrange the eggs but she breaks that rule when they hatch.
Why doesn’t Terzo stay at the nest and prevent this from happening?
The rule at peregrine nests is that the mother bird is totally in charge. The father bird defers to her.
A corollary is that the mother bird is always present and in charge at hatching time. She calls all the shots, including timing of the first feeding.
The father bird may communicate that he wants something to be different but it’s her decision. When Hope tells Terzo, “It’s my turn to be on the nest!” he has to leave. When he tells her “An egg is hatching” she takes over. This is the way of the peregrine.
We don’t know what Hope will do with the last egg so these warnings still apply.
A Caution to Viewers:
Don’t watch the eggs hatch at the Cathedral of Learning if it upsets you to see a mother kill her young.
A Caution to Commenters:
If commenters become worked up and demand/request action in emails or phone calls to “those in charge” it will end the show. Literally. It will shut down the camera. That’s what happened when commenters went over the top at the Woods Hole Osprey-cam. So… If you post a comment that could inflame others, I will edit it or delete it.
I’ll let you know when the coast is clear.