Jenna Dodge reports on the peregrine falcon family in Acadia NP:
A body of dark gray twists quickly in the sky and talons flash; it is the juvenile female peregrine seizing small flying insects in the air. Moments later, a deafening kak kak kak ricochets off the cliff and three falcon silhouettes are seen tearing across the sky. The adult male is being pursued fervently by his children, who are expecting to be delivered some freshly caught food. Yet, today, they will be disappointed and a bit hungry because the adult male has empty talons. They continue to chase their father until all three disappear over the north ridge and fly out of sight. For the past week both our immature falcons have been seen attempting to capture insects and a few small birds; however, there has been no observed success of an avian kill.
In a few weeks, our Precipice young will join many other birds of prey in a great southern migration and will not be able to depend on their parents for food. It is vital for these young to begin to strengthen their hunting skills as they will need to provide for their own survival. Perhaps our adult male is aware of this too and, in an effort to encourage his young to develop these skills, has begun to wean them from his consistent feeding. An empty stomach might just be enough incentive to spark the predatory instincts in our juveniles—only time will tell.
By now, both juveniles have returned to the cliff face and are trailing each other in the sky, occasionally making contact when they flip over and expose their talons; the adults are not solely responsible for their education, for they learn through playing with each other as well. Another important aspect of peregrine behavior is to defend themselves and their nests against potential threats—mainly from other birds. The behavior displayed by the young can be considered training for instances where they will need to fend off other raptors from their area—bald eagles, other peregrines, and even the much less threatening turkey vultures. For large predators, peregrines utilize a mobbing technique that entails multiple falcons working together to harass one bird until the risk has been abated. This is often observed at the Precipice because peregrine falcons, in general, are known to be very territorial and will vigorously protect their nesting area from any other large bird, whether it truly poses a threat or not, up to a one-mile radius. The young peregrines appear to be developing on schedule and each day provides a new opportunity for them to learn and grow into skilled falcons.
To see this exciting transformation, please join us down at the Precipice trailhead 9 to noon daily (weather permitting). Keep in mind that the Precipice Trail and a portion of the Champlain East Face Trail are closed until mid-August to ensure the safety of the falcons and their young. There are no nesting peregrine falcons on the Valley Cove cliffs, which has allowed the park to reopen the Valley Cove Trail (formerly the northern portion of the Flying Mountain Trail).