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Peregrine Courtship Behavior

A Guide to Peregrine Behavior in and Around the Nest Box...

Peregrine falcon bowingBOWING: is a display used in many situations, especially as part of courtship. The falcon leans forward, head low, often with its tail held high.

MALE OR FEMALE LEDGE DISPLAY: The falcon stands over the nest depression (scrape), leaning forward (bowing) and making an “ee-chupping” vocalization. The male often stares at the female during a male ledge display. Ledge displays are often accompanied or followed by;

SCRAPING: Either bird can do this. The falcon runs its breast through the substrate or nest depression, pushing out with its legs behind. The bird is forming the nest cup (scrape), but this is also part of courtship. Scrapes may be made at several potential ledges before one is finally chosen for laying.  Peregrines do not build a nest, but rather lay their eggs in such a scrape formed in the nest substrate. 

Courtship display by San Francisco peregrine falcons, George and Gracie.MUTUAL LEDGE DISPLAY: Often this is precipitated by a male or female ledge display. The other bird joins the first on the ledge and both bow and ee-chup over the scrape, sometimes touching bills. This can also happen outside the eyrie.

FOOD TRANSFER: The male offers food to the female by approaching her or standing near, with food in talons or beak, ee-chupping. The female takes the food from the male, usually ee-chupping or wailing. This can happen in the air or perched. The male often signals the female that he has food by wailing as he approaches the cliff or nest. This will normally occur outside the nest box. Peregrines normally do not bring food into the eyrie until they are feeding young, probably so that the nest stays clean.

Vocalizations:

EE-CHUP: A repetitious, staccato ee-chup ee-chup ee-chup sound. Males have a higher-pitched “eechip”. Variations include a slower chip chip chip, usually during ledge displays and while feeding young.

CACKING: Very loud cack cack cack -- A response to disturbance, either a raptor or other animal (including people) too near the eyrie. The nest box is in a protected location, so the falcons are unlikely to be disturbed.

WAILING: A long, slow, ascending waaaaaa waaaaaa waaaaa. Sometimes connotes hunger, but also used in a variety of circumstances. Youngsters have a more insistent variation of this call, which is often referred to as “hunger screaming”.

Adapted from: *Cade, T. J., J. H. Enderson and J. Linthicum, 1996.   Guide to Management of Peregrine Falcons at the Eyrie.  The Peregrine Fund.