May 19 2008

Peregrine banding at Gulf Tower

Published by at 10:19 pm under Nesting & Courtship,Peregrines

Tasha2 during the banding of her chicks, May 19 2008, Gulf Tower, PittsburghThe two peregrine chicks at Gulf Tower were banded Monday morning – 1 male and 1 female. 

The event was organized by the National Aviary and well attended by TV, radio, and newspapers including these articles by KDKAWTAE, and The Post-Gazette.

Beth Fife of the PA Game Commission collected the chicks from the nest but not before she was attacked by the mother peregrine Tasha2, pictured here on my cellphone.  (I like this picture because it gives you a sense of how large an adult peregrine is.)

Peregrines are very protective of their young – as we are of our own – but Tasha2 is so brave and aggressive that she’s willing to hurt herself in the attempt.  To protect her and everyone else Beth captured her first.  Then as Beth reached to collect the chicks, Louie, the father peregrine zoomed past and hit Beth’s head.  This was a surprise!  He used to stay far from the action at banding time.

The chicks and Tasha2 were brought inside.  Erin Estell of the National Aviary kept Tasha calm by holding her in this special way.  Tasha’s babies were given a health check by the National Aviary veterinary staff.  Then the PA Game Commission weighed the chicks (to determine their sex) and applied the bands. 

Peregrine leg bands are color-coded bracelets – in this case black on top, Example of peregrine bandgreen on bottom.  The numbers and letters on the bands are big enough that you can read them in a photograph (as shown here) or through binoculars if you’re not too far away.  When observers report a bird’s bands and location, we learn where it went after it left Pittsburgh.  This is scientifically useful and it’s how peregrine followers find out about peregrine alumni

So how does a peregrine’s weight determine its sex and why do we need to know their sex when they’re banded?  Female peregrines are always larger than males and they weigh more (the Gulf Tower female chick weighed 1100 grams, the male weighed 750g).  Females’ legs are also bigger in diameter so by weighing the birds the banders know which size band to use.

The banding didn’t last long.  In about half an hour, mom and chicks were back in the nest.  The chicks slept all afternoon to make up for the excitement.

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Peregrine banding at Gulf Tower”

  1. Amy Fon 20 May 2008 at 8:58 am

    I got lucky and visited the webcam just in time to see the start of yesterday’s adventure (just before someone’s legs blocked the camera).

    Banding 1, Banding 2, Banding 3, Banding 4

    The KDKA article gives a great view into how the rest of the process went. Thank you for the links, Kate!

  2. Barbara C. Simonon 20 May 2008 at 9:02 am

    What were the new names that they received at banding time?

  3. Kate StJon 20 May 2008 at 11:22 am

    Peregrine falcons are under the management of state wildlife agencies – the PA Game Commission in Pennsylvania.  In most states, including Pennsylvania, peregrines are not named when they are banded. This is so that people don’t get the idea that the birds are tame.

    In PA peregrines only acquire names when they nest – and that’s only done for the convenience of the observers. (It is just too hard to continue to refer to an unnamed bird as “adult female at University of Pittsburgh.”) The Gulf Tower and Pitt chicks were not and will not be named at banding.

    Now for the exceptions: Ohio & Wisconsin name peregrine chicks at banding. That’s why we learned Erie & Dorothy’s given names. Erie was banded in Columbus, Ohio; Dorothy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

  4. Kate StJon 20 May 2008 at 11:23 am

    Great photos of the banding, Amy F!

  5. Kittyon 20 May 2008 at 3:11 pm

    The peregrine is known as a migratory bird. I thought a migratory bird goes south in the winter and north in the summer but the peregrine doesn’t go anywhere or does it? Does the peregrine have a season that it leaves and comes back?

  6. Kate StJon 20 May 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Peregrines do migrate but not all of them migrate in the traditional way. The word “peregrine” means wanderer and it describes where they go when they’re on the move.

    Peregrines live on every continent except Antarctica. Those who nest in the Arctic usually migrate the furthest south – as far as South America. Those who live in temperate zones, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, generally move shorter distances and may even go east and west as well as north and south.  The young are the most likely to migrate because they don’t have home territories.  Adult peregrines in temperate zones often remain year-round on their home territories.

    The PA Game Commission used satellite telemetry to track young peregrines born in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The results are on interactive maps found here and they may surprise you!  (Click on the link for each bird to see its path.  The Pittsburgh Male link is a good example.)

  7. Anita Gallagheron 20 May 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I have not seen the parents at the Gulf Tower nest since the banding yesterday. Now there is only one chick in the nest. What has happened?

  8. Kate StJon 20 May 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Now that the chicks can walk there’s a much larger area available to them than what you see on the camera. There’s a ledge at the right and a ramp down to the area at the base of the camera. There’s even room to squeeze BEHIND the nest box. (You won’t see the chicks hide there until end of next week.)

    Meanwhile the parents are present and actually very close to their young. They are just out of camera view. They perch on top of the camera or on one of the stone pedestals to the right and left of the camera view.

    When the chicks look up to right, left or center with their mouths open, you can be sure they are looking at their parents and asking for food.

  9. Alice Cottoneon 21 May 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Wonderful articles and photos!!

  10. Maryon 22 May 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I finally found the nest of some of the Oakland red tailed hawks. Can’t tell if there are chicks, too far away. (I know they aren’t peregrines.)

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