As the many interested followers of the Peregrines may be aware, the first three chicks hatched overnight on 9/10 May. There was some doubt as to whether the fourth egg would hatch, as quite often one or more eggs in a clutch are infertile. It was thus a very pleasant surprise to log onto the cathedral webcam first thing on Tuesday morning 12 May to find four chicks in the nest. This fourth chick is currently noticeably smaller than its siblings, but provided there is a good supply of food to the nest, there is a good chance it will survive.
For the first one to two weeks of their lives, the chicks are, apart, from when being fed, almost continually brooded, almost always by the adult female. This is because they are very susceptible to being chilled, especially when it is cold and wet. Prolonged wet weather, at or shortly after hatching, can be very critical to chick survival, and in some years, many chicks and sometimes complete broods are lost if the weather is particularly bad. The really heavy rain on Thursday 14 May could have presented such a problem, but our female covered the chicks continually, becoming very wet and bedraggled in the process. Once the rain had ceased it became apparent that all four chicks were alive, and at an early feed on the following morning, all four appeared very active and healthy, with even the smallest of the brood fighting its way to the front of the queue to be fed.
At this stage of their lives, the food requirements of the chicks are quite modest, and on several occasions, once the chicks have been well fed, the adult female has been observed carrying the surplus remains of a prey item along the walkway at the base of the spire and out of sight of the camera. Whether she is then eating the remains of the prey herself or storing (caching) the food for future feeds to the chicks is unknown. It is certainly common for Peregrines to cache excess food for future use, this cache being particularly useful in poor weather conditions when hunting becomes much more difficult..
Once the chicks are perhaps 10-14 days old, they will not be brooded much during the day apart from in poor weather, and there will thus be much more opportunity to observe the chicks, either via the screen in the cloisters in the Cathedral or in the comfort of your own home. Be warned though; once logged on it is very hard to drag yourself away from the screen!
Granville Pictor, RSPB Volunteer