Hattie is laying eggs now at the Mayo Clinic, and a Super Bowl-sized crowd will watch
Hattie, the peregrine falcon, has been raising her young at the Mayo Clinic nest site since 2017.
ROCHESTER – Hattie the peregrine falcon laid an egg last night, and people went bonkers.
The 8-year-old peregrine falcon, the subject of fascination for tens of thousands of live-stream viewers, has laid two eggs since Sunday in its nest box atop the Mayo Clinic Building. It’s a sign. Spring is on the way (not this phony snow-filled one) and so is new life.
Hattie has typically laid a clutch of four eggs since she began raising her chicks at the Mayo site. If two or more are on the way, they should arrive by early next week.
Hattie has altogether raised 20 chicks at the site since 2017 and has the battle scars to prove it, suffering wounds to her eye, feet and head from territorial battles with other female peregrines.
The battles are part of the peregrine’s rough-and-tumble mating behavior. Hattie does battle with two to three female peregrines every year against encroachment on her territory. Two females tried to intrude this year, but the confrontations weren’t “real serious compared to previous years,” said Jackie Fallon, a naturalist with Mayo Clinic’s Peregrine Falcon Program.
Nesting season is a reminder of the strong population recovery peregrines have made over the decades. Once a species on the brink of extinction from the use of DDT pesticides, peregrines have rebounded to a level no other endangered species has achieved.
And people are hooked. Some 215,000 people observed the process of life unfold under Hattie’s supervision last year, Fallon said. The peregrine falcon program has a 24/7 camera to watch the process on the Mayo Clinic website.
The PB talked to Fallon about why the peregrine program is such a popular one at Mayo.
PB: Where is Orton (Orton is Hattie’s male mate)? I haven’t seen him?
Fallon: Orton was the bird in my social media posts this morning. He was the bird sitting on the two eggs when I did a screen capture.
So the male does a lot of the maternal work?
He’s very unusual for a male peregrine. He definitely spends more time with the eggs in these early stages before incubation happens than other males do.
They’re pretty devoted to each other, it strikes me.
They’re devoted to each other when eggs are present. But we do not say that peregrines mate for life. The belief from all the research is that it’s more the site, the territory, the nesting structure they’re bonded to. In a territorial encounter between females, if an intruding female comes in, it is just Hattie that goes out to fight and do battle. Orton is just sitting back, not assisting in that encounter whatsoever.
As I tell other adults, whoever comes back to the nesting territory is who he will breed with.
So he has no honor?
He doesn’t have as much investment until that egg arrives. It’s his genetics. It’s her genetics. The bond has strengthened, and now the pair will defend together against any intruder, male or female.
So is Hattie a middle-aged bird, an old bird? How many chick-bearing years does she have?
She’s got a lot of chick-bearing days. She’s only 8 years old this year. We’ve had female peregrines reproduce until they were 15 or 16 years old.
Why are we so fascinated about peregrines and this program?
A couple of things: One, peregrines are the fastest animal in the world. And people always like the biggest, the fastest, the strongest. And over the centuries, people have been fascinated with a bird that can dive at over 200 miles per hour.
They’re a classic, regal-looking bird. They were prized by royalty in falconry for the last 5,000 years. They are admired because of their parental behavior. They are extremely caring parents.
She does a good job protecting her territory?
She’s a force. I named her Hattie. She did not have a name when she was banded. Some sites name their chicks, some don’t. And Mayo Clinic gave me the opportunity to name her. I named her after Hattie Mayo, Dr. (William) Mayo's wife. Hattie means keeper of the hearth.
When will the eggs begin to hatch?
So incubation is 33 to 35 days long. And incubation will start when the second to last egg is laid. If she lays egg No. 3 on Friday, they will probably start incubating on Friday. And it would be about five weeks from there.
So I see Hattie or Orton resting over the eggs? But that’s not incubation?
So last night, if you had looked, the parents are sitting over the eggs to keep them above freezing. True incubation does not happen until that second to last egg is laid. Incubation is when they’re going to sit really tight and keep the eggs at a constant temperature right around 100.5 degrees.
How does this support Mayo’s mission of healing people?
Numerous patients and staff tell me how watching the camera and the falcons helps distract them from a diagnosis, treatment schedule, etc. I have several younger patients who write letters throughout the year, telling me how much they love the falcons and coming to Mayo isn’t so scary since they can watch the cameras on the computer or in their hospital room.