Breeding and nesting – and how the timing can be crucial

With four eggs in the nest again this year, the adults are set for a busy time

With four eggs in the nest again this year, the adults are set for a busy time

The recent spell of inclement (if entirely seasonal) weather sparked a lot of interest in the wellbeing of our high profile peregrine pair.

However, whilst ‘our’ peregrines had an army of concerned observers, other peregrine pairs – and indeed all other nesting birds – had to endure the elements without an audience. To me, this is one of the real advantages of the cameras that Nottingham Trent University has installed overlooking the Newton nest – it gives people an insight into the trials and tribulations faced by all our wild creatures.

It is likely that our pair and countless other pairs of all manner of species were prompted into early mating and nesting due to the unseasonably warm spell earlier in the year.  However, pinpointing exactly what factors combine to help decide nesting times is difficult. The timing will be influenced by everything from the health or ‘condition’ of the adult birds to the recent weather and relative availability of food.

For many species of bird, getting the timing of breeding and nesting right can be a matter of life and death and for some, the vagaries of the weather can have a significant impact.

If, for example, warm weather encourages trees such as the oak to come into leaf earlier than usual, some species like the blue tit, which rely heavily upon crops of oak leaf munching caterpillars (that’s not a particular species of caterpillar – but I wish it was!) to feed their chicks can be caught out.

If climate changes gradually over time then species have a chance to adapt,  but when we have unexpected changes to patterns of temperature and weather some species can suffer setbacks – perhaps failing to rear chicks at all during some seasons.

If this happens once then there should be no long term impact on a species’ numbers, but if it happens two or three seasons on the trot then species can go into a decline.

As predators sitting at the top of the food chain peregrines are a little better insulated from changes in our climate. They do not rely entirely upon a particular species of prey and are able to adapt to their surroundings. For example, birds living in a city will feed on a different range of species from those living close to a wetland area.

With four eggs in the nest, our pair will be very busy when the chicks hatch sometime in the next ten days or so. We’ll then have about six weeks to enjoy watching their development before they head off on their own and have to work out for themselves how best to cope with the world around them.

If you can drag yourself away from the falcon cam and manage to spot any other peregrines, sparrowhawks, kestrels or other birds of prey across Nottingham, then please do let us know using the special Raptor Watch survey form on the brand new Wildlife in the City website.

Erin McDaid
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

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12 Responses to Breeding and nesting – and how the timing can be crucial

  1. It is an established fact that the increase in daylight length, part of the earth’s annual cycle, prompts the onset of seasonal activity in all living things including the onset of the breeding cycle in wild birds. Variations in the earlier or later, annual fluctuations, are thought to be a response to more localised conditions. The progress of the annual change is seen in Britain from South to North and from lowland to highland

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  2. Johnny Brine says:

    Not sure if this is the right place to post this but, here’s a link to some very unusual behaviour in Peregrines, in Rome, a last year Female, that the parents didn’t drive away, has stayed around & is actually helping rear & cover the chicks.
    http://www.birdcam.it/index.php?act=cam&cam=1

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    • Penny says:

      I have been watching this pair, Aria and Vento, and I have seen the ‘extra’ female arrive when both the parent birds were present. She shot off pretty quickly when she saw them, closely followed by the parent Falcon, so I thought she was just an intruder. Very surprised to learn she has been ‘helping’! Sadly the live streaming camera does not seem to be working there at the moment, though it was when i first started watching them. Fascinating anyway!

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      • Sarah Glover says:

        It’s working now – I had to click on it to make it appear.

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      • JayJay says:

        Ive been watching this site for several years now and i was also interested to see this juvenile from a previous brood assisting. Ive seen the bird incubating the eggs and feeding the youngsters too which in itself is quite amazing, considering that Peregrines are not known to have their offspring assist in raising other broods. Ive seen this occur with Harris Hawks in the wild but not Falcons.

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  3. PamUK says:

    Thanks for that link Johnny Brine. Now we can see what we have to look forward to on the Nottingham Trent Uni. cam when the eggs hatch. Nice day in Nottingham if a little cold and all looks well at the nest box. Many thanks to NTU.

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  4. What happened to 2 of their eggs. Noticed there were only 2 compared to 4 they originally had. I asked via Twitter but did not hear at the time when I first spotted this.

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    • daventu says:

      Hi – thank you for your comment. No, there are definitely four eggs in the nest, perhaps your view was obscured slightly when you viewed previously. Which Twitter account did you send your previous tweet to by the way?

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  5. I don’t know how I only seen two a few days ago, but noticed just now, there were 4 eggs. I’m so glad they have them all.

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  6. @Nottswildlife was where I tweeted to.

    When I seen what I thought were just 2 eggs in there, I had it on camera 2 so I could look closely just to see if what I thought I saw on other camera. And still seen what I thought were 2. But I am so glad to find all ok.

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  7. Kev says:

    The female has been restless all morning with the first chick hatching midmorning, shell next to female lets hope the rest follow over the next few days

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  8. Caroline says:

    Wonderful one egg hatched today I noticed it at about 2.30pm it still had the open shell around it.

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