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Discussing: questions on birds of prey

questions on birds of prey

Two questions for those knowledgeable about birds:

1.  Do fledglings still have downy feathers?  I need them to, for a metaphor I'm using.  If they don't have downy-feathered, is there any other quality to them that distinguishes them from adults, other than perhaps their size?

2.  Do falcons nest in trees or rocks?  Or are there different types of falcons, some nesting in trees and some on rocky cliffs?

RAKSHA THE DEMON, who occasionally uses raptor birds for metaphors and similes



Re: questions on birds of prey

Hi Raksha

It is hard to answer your questions accurately, because there are so many bird species. But this is generally true (I am a bird watcher, but no ornithologist):

By fledglings, I assume you mean young birds that have already left the nest? In that case, they generally do not retain down, except insofar as the adult of the species (whichever) also does. Young birds need their flight feathers in order to leave the nest. However, there is a period of time (not very long) in the nest when a young bird has both down and flight feathers.

By the time of leaving the nest, they are generally not all that much smaller than adults. Birds must grow fast in order to survive. Their plumage is generally different from a mature adult's, however. It varies even more by sex.

Birds of prey both take longer to grow up and are often not as different in plumage by sex. A falcon might stay with its parents for a period of time while it is learning to hunt. They generally nest on cliffs, or on tall buildings! Peregrines are living in downtown San Francisco and New York and other cities--on skyscrapers and bridges.

A good source is:

If you have a more specific question by species, I might be of more help.

Thanks for recommending my story, by the way! I hope it brightened up your day.

Gandalfs apprentice



Re: questions on birds of prey


Just wanted to make sure you saw my attempt to provide some info on birds to your query.




Re: questions on birds of prey

I actually meant, in using the word fledgling, the bird equivalent of a teenager, about to leave the nest and fly, still bearing signs of youth in (bird-term) downy feathers, but indicating the strong adult he will be in time.

I use these two lines to end a Boromir/Faramir mega-drabble that is almost ready for posting:

Despite his courage, my baby brother is still a downy-feathered young bird. But for the first time, I can glimpse in the fledgling the hunter he will become.

I like the sound of the word fledgling better than chick, which I've used earlier in the context of having to leave the nest. Can I get away with these lines, or are they impossible and incorrect as far as bird-terms go? I'm hoping I can squeak by because you mentioned there's a brief time in the nest when a young bird has down and flight feathers...

Thanx much for your help, G.A.




Re: questions on birds of prey


Your lines are fine as far as bird-terms go. If you want to extend the metaphor, you could do something like this:

Despite his courage, my baby brother is still a downy nestling. But for the first time, I can see that his flight feathers are growing strong and true, a glimpse of the hunter he will become.

A peregrine chick is covered in white down. The flight feathers are distinctly different--long and colored--and when a young bird is going through this transition they truly do look like avian teenagers! 

Glad to be of help--any time!




Re: questions on birds of prey

Here is a page of pictures of the peregrine falcons in downtown San Francisco. If you set the cursor on the thumbnail, there'll be a caption with a date. Click the photo, and the large version will display in the frame at the top of the page.

I know it's more than you really asked for, but hey! it's interesting info, and might come in handy one day...




Re: questions on birds of prey

Thanx, DrummerGirl and G.A. After checking out DrummerGirl's link and rechecking the dictionary definition of fledgling, I decided to change one of my lines:

Despite his courage, my baby brother is still an untried young bird. But for the first time, I can glimpse in the fledgling the hunter he will become.

I did like the downy-feathered bit, but I don't think it's correct if I'm also using the term fledgling; since a fledgling is, by definition, a bird that has its flight feathers, and flight feathers aren't the downy ones.

I'm probably being over-obsessive; as many of the readers aren't as knowledgeable as you ladies. But I do like to be credible when I branch into even somewhat esoteric areas...

I could have used the words awkward young bird instead of untried young bird, but I don't see teenaged Faramir as very awkward, just inexperienced.




Re: questions on birds of prey

Late as usual, but hope this helps.

Babies are of course downy. As they grow they shed the down.

Fledglings--youngsters just starting out  flying and hunting--often do retain some down, especially at the base of the tail, along the thorax, and sometimes along the backs of the wings. They lose this last down as they master flight.

FWIW, my Dad had a falconer's license, so I got to see quite a bit of raptor interaction & behavior. 




Re: questions on birds of prey

Thanx, Khazar.

But would the fledgelings you mention have enough down to be called downy-feathered by someone who has possibly done some falconing, but doesn't do it all the time?  I would like to use the term, it makes a lovely metaphor, but I've never seen a downy-feathered fledgling, only the fuzzy pre-fledgling babies in pictures.




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