During the first two weeks of March, she will clean out a scrape in one of the rocky holes. She will stop hunting a few weeks before laying eggs. During this time as she becomes heavy with eggs, she will stop hunting and the tiercel (male) will feed and continue breeding with her until all the eggs, normally four, are laid. In the past a nest site may have been chosen in a poor location. Rain has washed out numerous scrapes. In most cases, they regroup, choose another hole and lay another clutch of eggs.
The downy white chicks hatch in 28-33 days. The tiercel continually brings in shorebirds for the falcon to eat and tear apart into small pieces to feed the ravenous chicks. She’ll resume hunting when the chicks are 2-3 weeks old.
After hatching, the chicks will appear in about 2-3 weeks teetering and will come to the edge of the nest site to defecate showing no fear of a 300 foot fall. At this time they are nearly pure white with some pin feather showing on the head. When they shake they loose more down.
Later when it comes close to their first flight, they are nearly all brown with small specks of down at the arm pit and on legs. They vigorously exercise in and around the nest site. Many times before their first flight they will climb the shear rock face using talons, beak and wing flaps. Not all fly the same day, but one flying encourages the others. Some may crash land onto rocks and the bushes on their first flight. The parents will know where they are and will take food to them.
After the first flight, they are reluctant to fly again, but the parent will bait them with food. Once they master this they will take food in the air. If the chick doesn’t finish eating the prey, the parent will take it to another chick. After the chick learns to take food from talons, the next lesson is to catch it in the air. Next is to bring in an injured bird and the chick will have to fly after it. The young start venturing away from the rock after 2-3 weeks, 1/4 to 1/2 mile always returning to the rock.
Chicks will eat from day of hatching. A parent will tear off small bits of flesh. She then turns her head sideways so the chick can take the morsel in a vertical head position, much like a link of chain.
The variety of prey here at the rock seems endless. Most prey is hard to identify. So many are small and just a ball of white or grey feathers. The larger birds which the female usually carries are not so hard to identify.
In one week, she brought in three red shafted flickers! Some of the others that I have identified are a mourning dove, meadow larks, a green winged teal, a blue jay and willets.