Prudential Fight

The River Birds?This morning, Sean and I decided to go spend some time at his office, not working on Trib stuff, but rather watching for peregrine activity from the 22nd floor outdoor balcony! It’s a beautiful place that’s open to employees for outdoor lunching and stuff. And for peregrine watching, of course.

Fortunately, it was quite warm and beautiful, although I will admit that the wind was a little gusty at times. We sat on the balcony for several hours and boy did we see activity.

The first thing we checked was the building the river birds had tried to nest on last year and the year before. There was absolutely no activity over there, nor was there streaking, prey remains or anything else “falconish”. A couple of crows seemed to have taken up residence, in fact, and were doddling around the balcony, picking at this and that.

About an hour in, we saw two peregrine flying together near Prudential 2. It was quite a long distance away, but I had Sean take some shots anyway while I watched through binoculars. The pair appeared to be engaging in courtship flying. They flew circles in lazy circles around each other, meeting in air now and again to flip and touch talons. We didn’t see any food exchange, but it was so far away that would be easy to miss.

At some point, they parted ways and one flew towards us, over us and then out of site to the north. The other appeared to land somewhere over by Prudential, but we couldn’t see it roosting.

Not long after, a bird came in from the west. At first, we thought it was the bird who had flown over us to the north that had circled back around to come “home”. However, it soon became clear we were wrong. As soon as the west bird came into the Prudential space, a high speed fight ensued. No more lazy circles and talon touches in this flight — rather, this was aggressive and fast and dangerous, with the birds pursuing each other at high speeds and stooping at each other almost constantly. A shadow passed us and we looked up to see the north bird coming back in from the north, hell bent for election.

For the next 40 minutes, we watched the three birds fight over Prudential. It wasn’t pretty. We saw a few hits, but no one went down. Finally, one bird was driven east with another in hot pursuit. We lost site of them as they went out over the lake, far in the distance.

The remaining peregrine was agitated to the gills. It began to circle the top of Prudential two at a dizzying pace – looked like a satellite zooming around a planet. Around and around and around it went. I imagine if we’d been closer, we’d have heard it screaming, but at our distance, we didn’t hear a thing.

Another bird came back from the west and joined the harried flight around Prudential Two before finally landing on one of the balcony-type structures near the top. The wind had picked up and it look as if the bird was blown down onto the balcony almost as soon as it landed. It’s counterpart in the air pulled out of its orbit of the top of Prudential and began diving at the balcony.

The happened again and again until finally the balcony bird popped back up on the rail and instantly turned tail out and presented for copulation. Hmmm….

This happened again and again, though we didn’t see any copulation actually happened. The balcony bird tried several balconies, but the bird in the air just kept diving past it. Finally, the balcony bird took flight, chasing the air bird. At first, Sean and I thought another fight was going to take place, but then the two began flying together. After a short time, they one started flipping upside down under the other and the two would touch talons. This happened maybe 11-12 times before they slowed down, rose in altitude and began lazy circles together.

So, after failing to nest two years in a row, I wonder if the river birds moved on to the Prudential Two area? If so, had we just seen a nest take-over? Had it been successful or had the river birds managed to drive off the usurper? At that distance, it was lucky we were even able to identify the birds — leg bands, their presence/absence, color and identifying characteristics were RIGHT out. Bears watching.

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~ by Steph on April 4, 2010.