Onwards & Upwards!

It’s incredible how fast the time goes and our current batch of raptor hatchlings seems to be growing really fast.  The little Red Kite chicks are doing extremely well and are now just over two weeks old - the falconers are pretty certain that the babies are a boy and a girl since, although they hatched only two days apart, the first chick is considerably bigger than the second. 

Hatched only two days apart, these Red Kite siblings show a discernible difference in size which - although far to early to tell for certain - possibly indicates that one is likely to be a male

Where owls are concerned, their young are bound to be a range of sizes, as mum will start incubating the first egg as soon as it has hatched and just add each subsequent egg to the clutch.  Barn Owls often lay up to six eggs and the chicks will hatch at different stages, so they are likely to be very different sizes indeed. Most other birds of prey tend to wait until all their eggs have been laid before they sit on them.  In the case of our Red Kites, mum did sit for a little while on the first egg, maybe just to start it off, but didn’t incubate it properly until the second egg was laid two days later.
Currently, the falconers are also looking after four Peregrine Falcon young.  The first clutch was hatched just over five weeks ago and the second just over a week ago.  The amount of growth in those five weeks is amazing and the first clutch chicks are already losing their downy feathers and growing plush adult ones.

 clutch-1-falcon-2011-2 clutch-1-falcon-2011
Little & Large - the Peregrine chick on the left is just over a week old, whilst the one on the right was hatched five weeks ago - a visible indication of how quickly they grow

Peregrine Falcons fledge at around 8 weeks old and our older chicks are already testing out their wings – known, I am reliably informed, as ‘wing pumping’.  They will soon be ready to move into a crèche aviary where they can safely build up their flight fitness and learn how to land on different perches.
Andy is pretty certain that the first clutch of Peregrines consists of a male and a female because of the difference in their size.  This is known as ‘dimorphism’, which is basically when the male and female of the same species have one or more physical attributes that distinguish them from on another.  In raptor species, the females are usually bigger so that they can incubate their eggs and brood their chicks successfully.  Technically, a female Peregrine is called a ‘falcon’, whilst the male is called a ‘tiercel’, meaning ‘a third’, the male bird being a third the size of the female.