Banding Peregrine falcon chicks...while Peregrine falcon parents defend the nest (MLYT)
May 26, 2012 4:56 PM   Subscribe

The footage looks like what you see when you play point-defense in a cover-based shooter. In fact, I was half-expecting the other guy with a shield to grunt like a Krogan in multiplayer Mass Effect 3
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:17 PM on May 26, 2012

Wow, that's quite cool.
posted by New Old User at 5:17 PM on May 26, 2012

And I'll bet some people think birdbanding is easy!
posted by easily confused at 5:28 PM on May 26, 2012

We see peregrines frequently when climbing at Whiteside Mountain, NC. The 700' vertical face is closed from Jan-July to give the nests some peace and quiet. I've never seen them attack climbers like this. Good thing cause that would add a lot of excitement to the already puckering exposure.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:35 PM on May 26, 2012

as a birdherder, I always wear a helmet.
posted by birdherder at 5:38 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Twice now I've been attacked by crows. Both times a single bird, likely a mother protecting a nest. What I've learned is to make eye contact. They don't seem to come at you if you can see them starting their dive. Unlike falcons apparently.
posted by philip-random at 5:38 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

The birds were hitting that plywood pretty hard... ouch..

When I was a kid my sister was the science coordinator for the elementary schools in our local school district, one of her roles was to take animals around to the schools and do science units with the kids, she became pretty well known. As a result she ended up with every damaged, injured, or found animal in the county and our house became a bit of a zoo. At one time we had over 100 snakes, over the years we had nearly every bird, reptile, or mammal found in Michigan.

At some point she ended up with two injured Red-tailed Hawks... Red-tails are a pretty good sized hawk, these were too wild and too big to keep in the house, they ended up housed in a 10 x 20 dog kennel in the back yard (with a chicken wire roof).

My job was to make sure they were supplied with a sufficient amount of fresh road kill. During the summer I would cruise the country roads around our house, stuffing dead squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks into a backpack, bringing them home for the hawks.

One day I went out to the enclosure with dinner, and, for a moment stood by the side, just watching the hawks, I stood a bit too close to the fairly loose fencing of the kennel. One of the hawks launched itself talons first at the fence, right at the level of my 12 year old face, hit the fence, which flexed outward the 6 inches it took to bring it right to my face. The hawk caught the side of my face and left a gash that ran from about 1/4 inch to the right of my eye to the middle of the cheek.

Scared the shit out of me, but I used that scar as a story starter for years.

51 years later I can still see traces of it.... and I still have my eye.
posted by HuronBob at 5:41 PM on May 26, 2012 [36 favorites]

Awesome. But what were they doing? Do these guys just go up to do battle with the falcons once a year? What's a banding?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

They are putting bands on the legs of the baby birds in the nest. The bands are used to later identify the birds.
posted by HuronBob at 5:43 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Having a bird swoop at my head is among the scariest sensations I can remember. The Fear takes over, the adrenalin pumps, the legs run of their own accord.

I wonder if painting eyes or some other pattern on the shields would help keep the mother from sweeping in so low.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

More on banding, from a particular project run at Hawk Mountain: "All nestlings are banded with numbered U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum bands, and most adults are color banded with a unique combination of three plastic color bands and a numbered NBS aluminum band. The former enables us to determine the subsequent one-site breeding status of birds born in the area, and the latter the lifetime reproductive success of individual adults."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

From the comments: They need to toss a board in that window first thing when they get up there. The falcons will probably be less likely to bomb on them when they can't just dip out the window.

that's a pretty good idea.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:54 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I know that sound, it is terrifying.

Yes there is a story.

When I was in High School my awesome grandparents paid for me to go on an Outward Bound adventure thing in Western North Carolina near grandfather mountain where I did just under a hundred miles of hiking, something like 10 miles of whitewater canoeing and a whole bunch of rock climbing and bouldering over the course of a month. It was amazing, even though I had massively ingrown toenails on both sides of both big toes that desperately needed surgery, which led to the unexpected scrotum piercing I will someday tell Metafilter about.

During this trip there were two days set aside for the whole group of like thirty kids to split up and make camp on our own individual half acre plots, alone. The idea was that we'd have 48 hours without any human interaction with which to find ourselves and have a meaningful experience of some kind. They took all of our knives and matches, safety first, and gave us each a notepad and pen with which to record the experience as well as a pathetic amount of trail mix with which to sustain ourselves. It actually kinda cool, that is, until I realized that the instructors kept the entrenching tool and toilet paper we used to poop. The experience quickly morphed from being simultaneously boring and interesting to absolute torture as my bowels swelled and swelled. I could feel the poop, both watery and hard at the same time, gurgling in my bowels and producing gas that I had no choice but to expel with the greatest possible care. I lasted about 30 hours in this fashion, before I realized that there was no hope, either I would figure something out or I would shit my pants.

At this point I desperately wished that I had gotten a stick to make a cathole with before I managed to largely incapacitate myself with shit, but there was this stream running right through the middle of my plot, and I knew that it was bad form at best to shit near a stream. By this point however, I was committed, there was no other option, I probably couldn't have made it to the main camp with the entrenching tool away from the steam if I had wanted to. I had burned my ship out with my negligence, the only way out now was to dig and hope for the best.

I selected a spot that was on a slight hill above the stream, though still within view, which I figured would buy my down-steam companions some time. It was also conveniently right next to a lambs ear bush that had been taunting me the whole time with its luscious billowy softness, if you have never had the chance, wiping your ass with lambs ear is a heavenly experience worthy only of the Gods. I had already found a poorly suitable digging stick and I set to work, awkwardly balanced so as to use my sphincter from different angles to hopefully keep it strong enough until I completed my task. Thankfully, I ended up with a roughly appropriate hole, pulled down my pants, and did my business. There was a lot of poop in there and it was taking a couple of minutes to navigate the entire load around my colon and out, but I spent that time openly weeping with relief. It was glorious, and I was looking forward to that lambs ear for a shit I could tell my grandkids about, but then everything changed. I heard that sound.

Maybe it was my particularly vulnerable state, being mid shit, but the Youtube video does not do it anywhere near justice. Mid-shit, I started to frantically look around for the bird that caused it, but all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this massive seeming black bird crashed out of the sky into the stream where it promptly began to drown and bleed out simultaneously. I shat the last big chunk right as the bird died and floated motionless in the stream. That was also when I noticed the Peregrine falcon on a nearby tree branch eying its kill, as if it were admiring its handiwork, and then eying me with a kind of indescribable WTF stare. I wish that I could say that I saw something meaningful in that stare, but I was just dumbstruck by the absurdity of my own existence. It looked at its kill again, decided it didn't want wet food I guess, and flew off, leaving me still squatting over my the last few days of food in front of a dead bird in the stream. It had just taken me 30 hours to decide to poop, I was not ready for this.

In the end, I wiped myself with the lambs ear, covered my hole with some exrta dirt then some rock and more dirt, and walked up to the poor bird. It turns out that it was a Pileated Woodpecker, ala Woody the Woodpecker, the critter had a huge gash in it from the pot of the wing to down and across the neck almost decapitating it. I decided that no one would believe me if no one saw the body, so I dug it a grave away from the cathole, much easier without a colon full of shit, but only buried it after the instructors came by to pick us up.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:12 PM on May 26, 2012 [46 favorites]

A study on the efficacy of helmet adornments in repelling magpies (from the everything-in-Australia-is-trying-to-kill-you department).
posted by Ritchie at 6:14 PM on May 26, 2012

Our banding program (I'm a hawkwatcher, not a bander) gives an award each year at our annual banquet to the bander who has sustained the greatest number/most peculiar/most entertaining /etc. banding-related injuries of the season. One year maybe five years ago, the Uncle Fuzzie went to a bander who was headed back to the blind, a raptor in each hand, when she tripped over a trapline or something and fell, hard - without injuring either bird, but getting footed by both (our banders do not use leather gloves, as our banding director thinks their use risks injury to the birds; they handle raptors barehanded). Fortunately, I think she was handling two fairly small hawks, and not peregrines, which are (or were) also known as big-footed falcons for very good reason. I like my scalp just the way it is and wouldn't want it removed by an infuriated peregrine. I did get attacked by a territorial red-winged blackbird once and it was ouchy.
posted by rtha at 6:18 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

One time. At banding camp.
posted by hal9k at 6:19 PM on May 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

Blasdelb: Great story. I read it to myself in Paul Harvey's voice.
posted by hal9k at 6:27 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Holy crap on a cracker.

The falcon I see most often around me is the American Kestrel, and the first time I saw one, I thought for sure nature was punking me, because those did not seem like normal colors. Also it was a Bears game day; it was like God was all in on Jay Cutler or something. A couple summers ago, I saw a juvenile trying to carry away his dead mouse, but he wasn't really coordinated enough or big enough to carry it AND fly and there was lots of short flutters and hops and he was waggling his way up my garage roof trying to drag it along while he gained height ... it was pretty hilarious from my kitchen window, but now I'm glad I didn't go outside to get pictures.

Also one time a bald eagle flew over my house, which I know is only tenuously related to the post because they're both raptors, but it was such an overwhelming sight I feel the need to tell people this on all remotely-related occasions. It was so big that at first I thought it was a small plane. I've seen injured ones at wildlife-rehab places, but their sitting-on-a-perch size does NOTHING to show how truly ginormous and majestic they are in flight. (Bald Eagles winter-nest along a river within five miles of me, but don't usually fly so far inland.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:29 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Blasdelb, I have the honor of giving you your first of what will no doubt be many favorites for your excellent comment above. That is a resounding tale you have told there, and you told it well. Bravo.
posted by Scientist at 6:32 PM on May 26, 2012

Seconding the majesty of bald eagles. Watching them take off from the enormous walnut tree in the pasture, I've been struck by just how much controlled power goes into every sweep of the wings, and how much *distance* they cover in a few simple wing flaps. They don't seem flustered or in a rush, just eminently cool, as though saving their energy for something more interesting than ruling the sky.

Red-tailed hawks are legion around here; at any given moment, it seems, I can look up and see one circling and lazily riding the updrafts, or perching on a jutting branch, or cruising the fields. In September of 2010, this gorgeous creature showed up at the barn and let me take some pictures. It seemed wounded, but flew off a little later. I consider myself very, very lucky to live in such a raptor-rich area. They're amazing.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:56 PM on May 26, 2012

Oh hey, they had a banding + ice cream social for the birds nesting on the office tower I work in last week. I was not present, but I've looked at the pictures. The subjects of the process didn't seem thrilled with it.
posted by kavasa at 6:59 PM on May 26, 2012

Also one time a bald eagle flew over my house, which I know is only tenuously related to the post because they're both raptors, but it was such an overwhelming sight I feel the need to tell people this on all remotely-related occasions.

I know the feeling.

We were visiting Vancouver, BC, one year, over New Year's. We were staying in some tower of a hotel on Robson, way up on the 30something'th floor. The first morning, I opened our curtains and made an undignified yelp as a sub-adult bald eagle flew past our balcony. On our walk that morning, we stopped counting at 50 - they were perched on rooftops like pigeons, and flying overhead, and no locals appeared to notice or care.

At some point on the trip were taking (another) walk along the seawall when we saw a group of people ahead of us on the path all clustered near a tree, and looking up into it. Of course we had our binoculars with us, so we trotted up and started looking to see what everyone else was looking at.

We saw a redtailed hawk perched on a branch. I asked a woman near me if that's what everyone was looking at; she was very excited that I seemed to know what it was. "Are you sure?" she said. I said I was. She announced to the group that it was definitely a redtail, and everyone was just...thrilled. There were bald eagles flying all over the place and they were enthralled by this (extremely out of season, should have migrated five months earlier) redtail. It was all kinds of awesome.

On preview - kavasa: more please!
posted by rtha at 7:06 PM on May 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Angry Birds? Not so fun, actually.
posted by sourcequench at 7:27 PM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Gosh! I dunno, I don't have very much more. They do have a little camera watching the nest box, but it's not broadcasting on the net - it just goes to a TV in the elevator lobby. It's been neat seeing it go from one bird just sitting there looking bored as it incubates the eggs, to an adult bird keeping the brand new hatchlings warm, to having it be either hatchlings-only or an adult in the box feeding them. Sadly, building management doesn't really put any of this stuff online.

Earlier in the spring I was briefly mystified by the grim spectacle of decaying small-bird heads scattered around one corner of the tower, but then I remembered the falcons and realized they must have made it back North.
posted by kavasa at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interesting timing. A kestrel flew into my house through the woodstove chimney yesterday and made quite a ruckus before we could shoo it outside. You do not want to mess with those birds. They have weapons for feet.
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on May 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've been on three separate golf courses where they had posted signs saying to the effect of "Nervous mother hawk in this tree. Stay the hell away. Take a free drop on the other side of the fairway."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:47 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had massively ingrown toenails on both sides of both big toes that desperately needed surgery, which led to the unexpected scrotum piercing I will someday tell Metafilter about.

Dude! Don't leave us, ah, hanging.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:11 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

that's a pretty good idea.

Yeah, it did seem like maybe some more pre-engineering could have helped them out. Like a PVC cage with some netting or something. Easy for me to sit here at my desk and think of marvelous ways to avoid bird attack - I'm sure some have been thought of and rejected, some are impractical, some just aren't worth the effort. But yeah, that's a lot of talon/eye exposure.

Cool to see the still shots of the birds in flight. I love falcons and hawks.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on May 26, 2012

Blasdelb: I had massively ingrown toenails on both sides of both big toes that desperately needed surgery, which led to the unexpected scrotum piercing I will someday tell Metafilter about.

Halloween Jack: Dude! Don't leave us, ah, hanging.

Amazingly, The Time Blasdelb Saw a Peregrine Falcon Kill a Pileated Woodpecker in Midair Right in Front of Him while Simultaneously Taking a Humongous and Sorely-Needed Dump Right in the Middle of Nowhere is only his second best Old Man Story.
posted by Scientist at 8:28 PM on May 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

I will never forget the time when I was hiking by myself in the East Bay hills and came around a blind corner face to face with a red tail hawk sitting on a tree branch ten feet from my face. I was ten years old, about four feet seven inches and that sucker looked huge and I thought it was big enough to eat me. If it had been really hungry it might have thought it was big enough to eat me.

Obviously it did not eat me.
posted by bukvich at 9:44 PM on May 26, 2012

Blasdelb: I had massively ingrown toenails on both sides of both big toes that desperately needed surgery, which led to the unexpected scrotum piercing I will someday tell Metafilter about.

There are subtle signs of the surgery, but the scrotum scar is more impressive.
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 11:34 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Blasdelb: When I was in High School my awesome grandparents paid for me to go on an Outward Bound adventure thing in Western North Carolina near grandfather mountain where I did just under a hundred miles of hiking, something like 10 miles of whitewater canoeing and a whole bunch of rock climbing and bouldering over the course of a month. It was amazing, even though I had massively ingrown toenails on both sides of both big toes that desperately needed surgery, which led to the unexpected scrotum piercing I will someday tell Metafilter about.

Halloween Jack: Dude! Don't leave us, ah, hanging.

Scientist: Amazingly, The Time Blasdelb Saw a Peregrine Falcon Kill a Pileated Woodpecker in Midair Right in Front of Him while Simultaneously Taking a Humongous and Sorely-Needed Dump Right in the Middle of Nowhere is only his second best Old Man Story.
Ok, Ok, Fine,

This whole trip was really a bad idea, the concept of hiking 100 miles on my toes through the mountains should have filled me with thoughts of the horrors to come, but I was young and stupid. My toenails dug deep into my toes, and it was bad enough that it was already turning me bowlegged and was giving me a scoliosis that persists to this day. At the beginning the pain in my feet was pretty comparable to the pain of city slicker legs learning to carry half of one's body weight's worth of all the supplies one would need for a week at a time of hiking up the hills of deep Appalachia. However, it quickly got worse. I also knew that I had surgery scheduled for only a few weeks after I got back and, if I wanted relief, I'd have to take good care of my toes. I did everything I could think of to lessen the impact, from stuffing toilet paper under the nails to trying to walk on my heels, nothing really worked. Life was terrible.

It got bad enough that when we went whitewater canoeing near the end, and had bootie things to keep our feet warm with water that would leak in, my feet got really badly infected with what I now to to have been Pseudomonas, or at least something that smells like it. Each of my four big toe cuticles swelled up the the size of a half a shelled peanut and turned a delightful shade of green, and even more disconcertingly they didn't hurt as much. We were pretty solidly in the middle of nowhere on the river by this point and there wasn't really a viable way out for medical attention so we lanced the sores with a sowing needle and rubbed alcohol and all the antibiotic creams we had into the wounds to, ideally, kill it with fire. Thankfully the antibiotics worked but, less thankfully the pain returned, and somehow it was even worse. My toes were a wreck, they were inflamed all over, there were decent sized abscesses where the infections had been, and the nails were still ingrown and digging.

At one point we ended up spending an entire morning going uphill and steeply. Everyone was complaining and wanting rests and guzzling precious water, but I was having none of it, I realized with so much of it that this uphill thing was AMAZING. While going uphill, all of the pressure was on my heels and, importantly, not my toes. I was having fun and energetic, practically sprinting up, even while everyone else was languishing. It was so great that by the time we crested the hill and started going down the other side I was devastated, all of the pressure now was on my toes, life was terrible again, and somehow yet worse. I tried walking backwards, I tried walking on my heels again, I tried walking sideways, but noting worked. That is until I got an idea.

I was still full of this energy that mystified my companions, and I went up to one of the instructors to ask about my idea. I was thinking that I could sprint down the hill to the next campsite so that all the pressure would be on my heels again while I sprinted. I even had the gear for the next meal, which I could get started early for everyone. They had their reservations but somehow I managed to talk them into it, we were only going to hike another two miles or so anyway. So the moment I got this most hedged and uncertain affirmative response possible, I bounded off at top speed. IT WAS AWESOME AGAIN, at least while I was still accelerating. I hadn't really thought through the physics of what I was trying to do, you see, the moment that I got up to speed, everything was the same again only now I was going crazy fast, the poundings on my toes were harder, and I really didn't want to try to stop with a bit more than half my body weight propelling me down this hill. To my credit, I managed to make it about a mile and a half in this fashion, and remarkably fast. That is until I hit a sharp bend in the trail that I didn't see until the last moment and a root I didn't see at all. I tripped over that root hard and fast, and right over the edge of the trail, which was also a dusty cliff that went about three hundred feet down to a ravine. I managed to land on my pack to slide down this cliff with a nominal and then increasing amount of control, the first thing I did was to spread my legs to sort of kick my way down as I slid past bushes and small trees, getting completely covered in scratches and dust. When I finally came to a stop I was about 75 vertical feet down from the trail, but largely intact. So I dusted myself off and started my way back up the cliff, first walking and then using the climbing skill I had learned to haul myself up using the various bushes growing into the cliff. It must have taken me a good half hour to get back to near the top, which was the most vertical part. When I got there I took off my pack hurled it onto the trail to make that last bit easier. Then, as I hauled myself up, I noticed a really startled rescue party of three of the more fit students in the group who had been sent ahead to make sure I was alright after the instructors reconsidered the wisdom of letting me sprint off.

They looked down the cliff at the path of devastation I had carved into it and decided it was the most badass and stupid thing they had ever seen. They got me some water and were dusting me off when I noticed this sharp pain, I didn't really think much of it at first, like it must just be noise in my system or something, but then it came back and harder and was definitely from my scrotum. I then went pale when I realized that there was a twig that went through my pants in one end, and out of my pants through the other. It was also sharp. Frozen with terror, I screamed a distinctly unmanly scream when one of my friends bumped the stick as he was brushing me off, and we all slowly realized the terrible thing that had just happened. It must have pierced me while I was sliding down the cliff. I then asked to borrow a sharp knife from the guy who had all the sharpest knives and went a short distance out into the woods. I broke the twig at both ends to free it from my pants so I could get a better idea of the injury, and then there it was, going straight through my scrotum, thankfully right between my testicles. I then used the knife to cut the twig a third time, right behind my scrotum, so that I could pull the twig all the way through, like how you're supposed to do with fishhooks. The only thing left to do with it then was to pack it with gauze and antibiotics, let it air dry a bunch regularly, and hope for the best.

I then walked like John Wayne for the rest of the journey.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:01 AM on May 27, 2012 [32 favorites]

ow. ow. ow. ow.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:29 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

So my turkeys had babies.

We were lazy about processing the last few--two hens and a tom--and one day an egg appeared in their enclosure. Then another egg. My husband and son built a nest under the turkey coop, and it was perfect: straw-lined; enclosed; close to a food and water-station; and with a comforting low ceiling, about two feet off the ground. It fell to me to look after the hen, her eggs, and the second hen and HER eggs, underneath there, which meant that I spent about a month and a half doing multiple crawls in straw and spilled food and dirt and manure to do egg check. Which put my eyes RIGHT AT BEAK LEVEL.

As we got closer to what I thought was hatching time, I had the brilliant idea to bring a stethoscope in with me, so I could listen for signs of life in the eggs. As it turns out, the distance between the end of a stethoscope and an angry turkey mama is surprisingly small, and I quickly learned to a) wear shooting glasses for egg check, and b) wave my free hand around so the pissed-off hens would attack the sparkly ring I wear instead of, you know, my eyeballs. Also, that crawlspace is called that for a reason. Low ceilings don't allow a lot of escape room. And that given the choice between having your ass pecked by a randy tom and turning your back on bad-tempered broody hens, you should take the bite on the butt.

We lost several poults to being crushed and pecked to death by their mothers, and one to some neurological disorder, but persistent and frequent egg check helped us save four little fuzzballs.

I tossed the non-viable eggs (which exploded) and it took about a day for the girls to leave the nest and take up their pecking and scratching life in their enclosure. It was wonderful to see them rejoin their regular programming...and the tom thought so too. It would be an exaggeration to refer to him as Minute Man, and he didn't even say thank you afterwards. *Sigh.*

So here, very possibly, we go again. But the sound of scratching and peeping from inside an egg? So hope-inducing that risking the wrath of an angry beak is worth it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:39 AM on May 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

Do Peregrines dream of infected feet?
posted by From Bklyn at 6:04 AM on May 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Interesting, MonkeyToes. Somewhere over the last few years I was reading about how insanely hard it is to breed turkeys domestically. Seems you have accomplished quite a feat.
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on May 27, 2012

Thanks, Miko. All credit to heritage breeds and their natural reproduction.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:37 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just as a by-the-by, if anyone has a passing interest in learning more about peregrines (and after the videos and Blasdelb's story, how could one not?), then I enthusiastically recommend J.A. Baker's The Peregrine, one of the most extraordinarily singular pieces of nature writing ever committed to print.
posted by hydatius at 10:47 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nice to see the men of Minas Tirith holding their own--for a change.
posted by senor biggles at 12:17 PM on May 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

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