Drama on the Cliffs of Yaquina Head
The pair of Peregrine Falcons that nests on the cliffs at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (YHONA) interpretive center have successfully produced numerous young in the past few years. This year the female laid four eggs, and after a few weeks of incubation all four chicks hatched full of life and with empty stomachs. Both dad and mom were busy flying constantly from one corner of the park to another looking for food for the demanding children. On occasions and with some luck, the parents brought their young a Flicker, a Mew Gull, all kinds of sparrows, finches, swallows, and sometimes even murres.
Everything was going perfectly for the Peregrines of YHONA. After all, they are experts in infant care since they have been through this process multiple times. Nonetheless, unusual conditions on the Oregon coast this year seem to have been having an effect on natural processes. Drought, irregular rises in temperature, increasing wind speeds, and extremely high and low tides all contribute to the changes that are now noticeable. Being part of nature, the Peregrines were not unaffected by the changes, and they have been facing unusual challenges.
To begin with, the male that has been defending his territory and has sired multiple young in years past was displaced by a new larger and more aggressive falcon. The events of the displacement of the resident male occurred prior to the hatching of the babies. Since the first moment the presence of the new male was detected, the entire birding community of YHONA watched in desperation and fear, thinking that the young were not likely to hatch this year. Surprisingly enough, the birds hatched and the usurper responsible for the disappearance of the father now became the official caretaker.
Not only did the stepfather let the young hatch, but he began to provide them with food and has fiercely protected his new territory. It has been one month and two weeks since the hatch date and the eyasses (unfledged young falcons) are about to become juveniles. Nevertheless, tragedy has been known to strike multiple times in the same place. Not too long after the babies started growing their primary feathers, their mother disappeared and up to this day nobody has seen her. To top it all off, one of the babies fell from the cliff where the nest was and landed on a lower area where the stepfather doesn’t seem to visit often. The survival of the babies now depends entirely on the ability of their stepfather to bring back food and defend them from intruders. A new falcon has been spotted visiting the area lately, and though the gender of this newcomer is still unknown, all the spectators wait for a moment of luck and for the three surviving juveniles to successfully fledge.