Mother Nature can be cruel. And in the case of the clutch of eggs that a female peregrine falcon has been incubating for over a month, all on live internet television, atop the PG&E building on Beale Street in San Francisco, it was the dad who ate his own young this time.
Here I thought it would be a swell, comforting story to watch the peregrine falcon nest this hatching season, with at least three viable eggs in a clutch of seven that a falcon named Val has been sitting on since early May. The falcon-watchers on this message board have been keeping track of the drama, which began back in March with the laying of four eggs. Val had mated with an older male falcon named Dan, who has since been chased off by a younger male they've named Canyon.
Canyon then apparently mated with Val and she laid a second clutch of eggs in May. Hopes were seeming lost last week when the eggs went well past their typical incubation period of around 33 days. But then, on Tuesday, there was some pecking from inside a shell, and everyone delighted to see, for at least a few minutes on the live cam, a tiny falcon hatchling trying to squirm out.
Right as the bird was starting to emerge, though, Val decided to take some mom time and took off from the nest around 4 p.m. Almost as soon as she left, Canyon swooped in and began making some loud noises, wandering around the nest. I'm no bird expert, but he seemed to be confused by what was going on with the hatchling, and in the recorded clip below you can watch as he ultimately jumps into the nest, picks up the hatchling along with part of the eggshell, and pulls it out to the ground. He then takes the baby over to the side of the frame, and with the audio on you can hear some disturbing little screams.
Obviously, this is not for the squeamish. The gory part starts at the 5:10 mark.
Canyon finally takes the hatchling off screen around the 7:20 mark, and moments later, Val returns to her nest, pecks curiously at the broken eggshell, and continues her incubation.
A couple of hours later, as the message board noted, Val picked up an apparently dented egg and flew off with it.
So, if we're doing math here, Val is likely sitting on four failed eggs and one potentially viable one. (This is only slightly more of a hopeful situation than one peregrine falcon mom who was being observed on a live cam at the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 who ate two of her own young right as they hatched. But in brighter news, a pair of falcon chicks who fell out of a nest in an airplane hangar at SFO were just treated by vets and returned to their parents this week.)
If there isn't one live baby falcon coming out of all this, I'm going to be so pissed.