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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Remote Camera Gives a Peek into the Mysterious World of Orange-breasted Falcons
Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project    Share
Male Orange-breasted Falcon
Male Orange-breasted Falcon
In early March of this year, we installed a camera in one of the active Orange-breasted Falcon nests in Belize with the hopes of learning more about this species’ breeding behavior (see Notes from the Field March, 2006). The camera was designed to film all nest activity during daylight hours. In addition to the camera, we had three of our biologists, Chris Hatten, Ryan Phillips and Phil Hannon, and one volunteer, Cody Phillips, monitoring the nest to record all the activities that would occur off camera, such as hunting, food exchanges between the male and female, and nest defending. Chris, Ryan, Phil, and Cody each took turns camping at the nest to record behavior, identify prey species and to recharge the battery to the camera and download the footage every few days.

As we hoped, the camera recorded some very interesting footage. We had placed it at the nest at an opportune time—only hours after the first downy chick out of three eggs had hatched. On this day we were able to catch on film the female feeding on the broken pieces of eggshell—something that we weren’t aware that they did.

As the days and weeks passed, the camera rolled as the female brooded her chick, kicked the remaining two eggs that never hatched out of the nest, and carefully fed her offspring small pieces of meat. We even recorded a few tentative visits by the male.

While all of this was happening at the nest, the biologists were recording some interesting behavior off-camera as well. They witnessed several prey exchanges between the male and the female and were able to identify a variety of prey items including a few bats, some parakeets, and even a small reptile!

Orange-breasted Falcon with a bat
Orange-breasted Falcon with a bat
After a few weeks, as the chick became more active and began walking along the cliff ledge, it became harder to record its activities throughout the day, as the camera was stationary. However, with the biologists present, we were able to observe when the young bird, now fully feathered, took its first flights, roughly six weeks later.

Our plan is to improve the camera system for next year, and even include a small microphone so that we can record vocalizations between the parents, between mother and chick, and among the young chicks themselves. Ideally, we would also like to place a camera at two different nests to gather even more data and to learn more about the mysterious world of the Orange-breasted Falcon.

Find more articles about Orange-breasted Falcon, Neotropics

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