28 December 2021
Earlier this month Morela preened at the nest and frequently paused to raise her beak and open wide (photo at top). She was not shouting. She was casting a pellet.
Like other birds of prey, the peregrine’s digestive system gathers indigestible bits of feather and bone into a pellet in the gizzard. When the pellet is big enough the bird regurgitates it. If you found a peregrine pellet it would not be as interesting as an owl pellet because it is just fractured bits and pieces. Peregrines don’t swallow their prey whole like owls do.
It is rare to witness the actual casting. The snapshots show Morela preparing to cast the pellet but we never see it leave her body. She looks our way when it’s over.
In May 2020 the Richmond, Virginia falconcam captured video of their unbanded female casting a pellet near the nest. Though it looks to us as if she’s sick, what she’s doing is completely normal and necessary.
Learn more about peregrine pellets and see photos of them at the Richmond VA peregrine page.
(photos of Morela from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)