Wednesday, May 03, 2006


29 Apr 2006

After watching the Trump Parc nest, I decided to go find Ben Cacace in hopes of getting a look at his Peregrines.

I know they aren't really "his Peregrines", and he'd take me to task for saying it, scrupulous observer and fact finder that he is, but as he's been watching the Peregrines, whose territory includes the southeast corner of Central Park and the adjacent buildings for ten years, I do think of them that way.

I arrived late in the day, 5:55 PM and Ben had one of the Peregrines in his sights on the GM building. The first level down from the roof, the third railing going east from the northwest corner. Hereafter to be called GM NW 3. Though at the time her sex is not identified for the evening, Ben suspects it is the female and she is beautiful.

Sitting her perch, looking about with quick focus, black sideburns against a white neck, and preening each selected area with complete thoroughness. She is striking and I must say, much bigger than I expected.

The field guides say Peregrines are anywhere from 15 to 21inches in length and from 1 lb. 2 oz to over weight. With a spread of 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 feet. (A Red-tail's spread is considered to be around 4 feet.) She does look to be towards the top end of the range. Like most raptors, female Peregrines are bigger than the males. Ben explains that in this pair the difference in size is quite large, but unless one sees them perched together, it's tough to identify which is which when they are sitting. In flight he's got who's who down by a temporary difference in their primaries.

Ben tells me that over all the years he's watched, he's never been sure exactly where the Peregrines have nested. But this year he may have it nearly pinned down. The falcons seem to be doing some kind of nest switch out of sight, that occurs using GM NW 5 and GM NW 6.

6:30PM, Mrs. Peregrine continues to sit the railing, preening in her measured way. Still alert, dark eyes flashing, she looks straight up like a shot. As do we, but we don't have her eyesight so see nothing. Ben explains that it's quite unusual for the falcons to stay in one place for so long. I realize I'm getting a treat. Suddenly she triangulates, but it doesn't look at all like what happens when the Red-tails triangulate.

Triangulation is a series of quick moves of the head and hence the eyes which give birds a more precise take on how far away the focused upon object is. When an RT triangulates it's similar to a series of small head cocks. When a Peregrine triangulates it's more of a front to back move of the head and neck. Fascinating.

It's 6:43 and she's still there. It's quite a show. Ben says,"Very unusual." She stretches, scratches her head, rouses her feathers. Ben asks, "Do you see that little white spot on her head?" Hmmm, I do. Just what is that?

Then Ben does something I didn't think to do. The backdrop of the railing is a series of uniformly sized horizontal slats. Vents for air conditioners perhaps? He counts the slats behind Mrs. P. The falcon is just shy of 5 slats tall. Now if the other Peregrine would just perch in the same spot and we were in the same place, we would know which sitting falcon it was in the future.

6:52, Mrs. Peregrine is off her railing. I miss where she goes and Ben points me to the NE corner of the roof of the GM building. There she is, sitting in the sun. She preens. Ben says with some excitement, "Did you catch sight of a band?" I look hard. I see something. It could be a band but then again it could just be some light feathers on her ankle. We both stare fixedly through the scopes. She goes to preen her foot. She lifts it. There is a flash--sun on silver. She scratches. The band is clearly defined on her leg, though at this distance we won't be reading the numbers anytime soon. "Absolutely Ben, she has a band."

He carefully takes out his notebook and writes. He closes it with a smile and says, "Thank you for the confirmation."

AT 7:03, she's off the roof and takes to the sky in amazing flight, up, down, and around the corner of the park. Used to the soaring and measured circles of the Red-tails, I can't keep up with her in my binoculars. It doesn't matter, the naked eye is enough. Ben checks the feathers. Indeed it is the female of the pair.

After taking several other positions around the roof, at 7:38 Mrs. Peregrine flies down and perches on the left side of the railing of GM NW 5. Alright! This is one of the places involved with the mysterious and possible nest switching. Interestingly the "slats" behind this railing are not like the slats behind all the other railings. These are diagonal and there looks to be larger spaces between them. She is facing in towards the building and posed as if listening. And it certainly appears like she is looking at something fixedly as well. We don't dare take our eyes off her. Staring hard and trying not to get distracted at 7:42, I suddenly notice that her toes aren't curling around the railing to hold on. How odd. Her front toes are just sticking straight out. Why? How does she stay on the perch like that?

7:45 Mrs. Peregrine drops off the railing on the building side and disappears. Going in? Mr. Peregrine appears at the bottom of the area in between the uprights of the railing she'd been sitting on, and drops off the ledge into the air, out of the scopes line of sight. Wow, that was quick. Very efficient.

Soon Mr. P. is back on the rail of GM NW 5. Ben says, that he's never discovered where they roost. The off-nest bird usually flies to parts unknown around now. We wait for him to leave..

Mr. Peregrine begins to preen and he is quick. Quick on each spot, quick to move spots. Quick, quick, quick. His head is fast, his beak is fast. He preens at nearly warbler speed. Very different form the measured preening pace of his mate. A possible behavioral trait for differentiating the birds? Something to look at in the future for sure.

8:12, the Robins are singing their goodnight songs. It is well past official sunset and we're nearly at the civil one. The falcon has turned his back. Where is his head? Is he preening his front? It really is getting dark. Details can't be made out but he is still there.

8:20PM. No movement. He still looks like he has no head. He has to have tucked in for the night, by now. Hasn't he? We wait. He's become the faintest of smudges on the railing near the entrance. The entrance to what behavior tells us must be the nest.

The city lights are on. The sky is dark. Nothing flies in this dimness but bats and the mallards going to graze on The Great Lawn. The Peregrine is not leaving. In fact I'm sure now that he's been asleep for sometime. The band, the nest, and a Peregrine's night roost, a three discovery day. Amazing.

It's 8:28 with Peregrines in place, we leave for home.


1 comment:

Ben C. said...


Nice write-up of the event. It was just like being there! ;-D

Glad to see I have another bird related blog to visit!