Growing weather?

There’s been quite a lot of rain over recent days in Sheffield, but the chicks seem to be unaffected by it, with both parents attempting to protect the brood.  The comparison below shows how much they’ve grown in the last 10 days.

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The adults have been doing a good job in providing a steady food supply, primarily in the form of Feral Pigeons.  The size of the chicks means that it’s increasingly difficult for the adults to offer them effective protection from the elements, as is apparent below.

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In the shot above, the female was watching something overhead, which turned out to be a fly that landed on the ledge!  Her ability to follow a fly in flight was impressive and she stared it out, even more so when it landed on her back.  It’s clearly not only distance vision that is exceptional.

About this time you’d expect the adults to ease off brooding the chicks and they are being left to their own devices on occasion, though the weather may be keeping the parents on the nest more than would otherwise be the case.  Given the size of the male compared to the rapidly growing chicks, his attempts at brooding will be very limited!

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The chicks are not yet able to stand, and will not be able to do so for another week or more.  As the parents brood them less during the day, they will continue to spend much of the time asleep or dozing, huddled together to maintain warmth.  They are likely to be brooded at night for a little while longer yet.

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It can look at times as if one of the chicks (not necessarily the same one) is lethargic and not showing an interest in feeding, but the two shots above show that a chick that seemed to be missing out on a feed was soon able to take a turn and be fed well when it decided to make a move.  What goes in must come out, and the spattering on the ledge of the platform indicates that they are becoming increasingly able to eject their droppings away from the nest in a directed squirt.  The adults continue to be attentive in ensuring that all four chicks are fed when prey is brought to the nest and there are no obvious signs of a ‘runt’, which might have been expected to be the chick that hatched two days later than the others.  Within the next few days we may see the first attempts by the chicks to feed themselves when prey is brought in – one to watch for.

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Something else to watch for in the coming days is the chicks starting to preen, as they are doing occasionally now, and the emergence of feathers, which can just about be seen when they stretch their wings in particular.  One final point that can be appreciated in the screengrab above is the size of feet and length of talons on the chicks.  Females have relatively larger feet and longer talons, especially the middle one, and this may prove to be the first indications of how many of the chicks are male or female.  My guess from the length of the talons visible as the chick of the left rests its foot on the chick to the right is that this is a female, though differences in size will become obvious over the next couple of weeks.

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