First flight at Uccle!

It's time for the big show! The first two falcons juveniles of Saint Job church in Uccle left their nest yesterday during daytime.

They are early this year because normally the growth of young Peregrine Falcons is a 6 week – process. Considering their hatching between the 9th and the 10th of April, we expected the first excursions outside the bell tower only for next Tuesday-Wednesday. But they have outpaced our predictions! The other two falcons are still in the nest, in the middle of the clock-face. They are very calm, obviously indifferent to the departure of their brother(s) and/or sister(s). But it's probably just an appearance.

Peregrine females are significantly more corpulent than males. Their weight varies between 1000 g and 1150 g while males weigh between 650 g and 700 g. Logically, the growth of males is faster than that of females. The two intrepid are probably both males. Reading the code of their colour ring should allow us to know it quickly.

But in any case, a new period begins now for falcons. A particular difficult time! Leaving the nest, they leave a particularly protected environment. No wind gusts, no driving rain, varied meals, to satiety, brought at regular hours, parents who watch night and day and hunted with vehemence the slightest intruder (especially the innocent ringer ...). It’s all ended, or almost. And in addition, they will have to learn to control flight and hunting techniques.

Flying and hunting are instinctive Peregrines behaviours. The falcons have the reflex to throw themselves in the air and to pursue a prey. But that’s not all! They must learn to understand how air currents work, how to anticipate prey behaviour, how to react to a particular weather event. Excelling in hunting techniques is crucial. Which hunting strategy to use in which condition? A pursuit horizontally flirting with 100 km/hr or a dive at the breakneck speed of 400 km/hr? All this, they need to learn! And quick! Because their survival depends on it. Fortunately, there is a safety net. For several weeks, Peregrine parents continue to feed their young.  Once out of the nest - the falcons will normally not return anymore. They will now discover different perches, viewpoints, scattered around the church or, more simply, on the building itself. This strategy allows juveniles not to starve during their "self-training". Little by little, they will gain experience that will allow them to be more independent and finally to be totally independent. Does this mean that parents do not teach their kids anything? Hard to say. Studying communication between members of a Peregrine family whose living-area is the sky is not obvious! But it is observed that the parents, in flight, throw prey at their young, they scold, they do not feed spontaneously but seem to wait until the young are really hungry. Are these behaviours aimed at stimulating them, forcing them to learn? Very probably.

 

Video 1: the juvenile falcon K/Y watching tram 92 going by in the direction of Fort Jaco!

Video 2: the juvenile falcon K/Y sitting in a tree in the middle of Sint-Job Square!

Photo 1: One of the falcons still in the nest is the juvenils female white ring K /7.

Photo 2: The colour ring engraved with a code allows the identification of the falcon without having to recapture it or find it in distress.

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