Wednesday, August 24 presents
Dennis Money and Mike Britten

Peregrine Falcons
May 9, 2001

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Kellie: Do you think they know that they are being watched with these webcams and that they have legions of fans?

Dennis Money: It's quite apparent that both Cabot-Sirocco and Mariah have become comfortable with the cameras, and I think they are in turn hams, so to speak, because the one camera that peers into the nest box is one they often look into. It is almost like they are smiling at the camera.

Shopper: Who gets to name the falcons? How do you pick their names? And do all of the falcons get names?

Dennis Money: Basically, what they are doing this year is similar to what they did last year. Kodak is soliciting nominations of names for the birds. Obviously, we don't know at this time what sex the birds are and whether they are male or female, so when banding day takes place -- in about three more weeks -- we will have several names for each sex to make sure we have enough names to cover all potentials.

Mike Britten: There have been many releases of captive bred peregrine falcons throughout the United States. Each release involves bringing young falcons to a site and feeding them there for months. And at each site there are attendants. Those attendants almost always name the falcons. They are the caretakers -- the ones that give them the food. If they notice that there is a problem (like horned owls in the area, for example) they take steps to make sure the birds don't become prey. I would say they are almost like adoptive children, so they often name them.

Sydney Gal: How can you distinguish between the male and the female peregrine falcons?

Mike Britten: (laughing) Males are one-third smaller than females. They have more rapid wingbeats, and they have brighter yellow feet and cere, which is the area at the base of the bill. And they tend to be brighter, with white on the breast and pale blue on the back.

Dennis Money: One other characteristic is that the legs of the male falcon, known as a tiercel, are always smaller in diameter than the female. And these are measured when the birds are banded as generally a foolproof mechanism to determine sex.

Bangle Dangle: Are you always looking for new sites to place nest boxes?

Mike Britten: The captive rearing and release of peregrines is winding down because in many places populations have returned to 'normal levels.' The bird has been delisted and now it's a matter of monitoring the population to make sure there are no further problems. But in the Eastern U.S. the populations have not fully recovered, so there still are some releases occurring.

Dennis Money: Basically, peregrines are very territorial and you will not see them nesting very close to one another. The general rule of thumb is that you have one falcon nest for a ten-mile diameter. And if other falcons enter that airspace when they are raising their young, those foreign falcons will be attacked and either driven away or killed.

Mike Britten: In the Western U.S. they are much more densely placed. We have birds nesting within a mile of each other. And most of the territorial defense is ritualized behavior -- they rarely fight in physical contact and kill each other, though they do sometimes, as Dennis said.

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