Dec 28 2009

Home to Stay?

Published by at 7:04 am under Peregrines

Juvenile peregrine at Univ of Pittsburgh nest, 8/4/08Back in 2008 when he was only three months old this young peregrine seemed reluctant to leave Pittsburgh.

Peregrine falcons born at the Cathedral of Learning normally become scarce by mid July.  Telemetry data from the Gulf Tower indicates Pittsburgh’s fledglings go far on their first trip – often to the Atlantic coast – but on August 4, 2008 this juvenile visited the nest box and was captured in these webcam images.  We thought he’d left home.

Fast forward a year and a half to December 2009.  About a week ago Dan Yagusic was birding along the Allegheny River hoping to find ducks and not having much luck.  Suddenly at Tarentum things got exciting.  A peregrine snatched a pigeon from the bridge above him and proceeded to eat it. 

As Dan watched, a second, smaller peregrine arrived and perched within eight feet of the first while she ate.  Their sizes and close approach indicated they must be a pair.  Otherwise they wouldn’t tolerate each other.

Dan could see they were banded so he swung his scope in their direction and waited patiently for 45 minutes until both birds revealed their bands.  The female’s bands were easy to read but her origins are still unknown (we’re awaiting word from our bird band officials). 

The male’s bands were harder to read – Dan is only 90% sure of the numbers – but if the numbers are right I am sure of the bird’s identity.  It’s this guy, born at Cathedral of Learning, the only male to survive that year because his brother died in a window collision at the Rand Building.

By now this peregrine is an adult, clothed in gray, black and white and old enough to breed.  Though he’s living 15 miles away from his birthplace it’s obvious he still loves Pittsburgh.

I can hardly wait to see what happens this spring!

p.s. This news just in:  The female has been identified!  She was born in 2008 at the Benjamin Harrison Bridge near Hopewell, Virginia and hacked (fledged) near the town of Luray in Shenandoah National Park.  This is a similar life story to the female that tried to nest unsuccessfully at the 62nd Street Bridge in 2007.  Both were hacked from Shenandoah National Park because the winds are so strong at the Ben Harrison Bridge that the young birds usually die if they attempt to fledge from there.

(photo from the National Aviary‘s webcam at the Cathedral of Learning on August 4, 2008)

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Home to Stay?”

  1. Steve Von 28 Dec 2009 at 9:10 am

    Wow, this is amazing! I’m from Tarentum orginally and still have family there. On Christmas Eve I was driving across the bridge and remarked that this area needs some falcons because of how many pigeons there are in the area and the fact that the Tarentum bridge is nice and high. Wow, us bird-brains must really think alike. I’m going up there this weekend to see if I can spot them with my nephew. Awesome Kate, thanks for this news!

    Best wishes in the coming new year!

  2. CHWon 28 Dec 2009 at 1:26 pm

    How great this is! I live in NK and cross the Tarentum bridge frequently, so I will keep my eyes open. The other day, after catching some of the sales at the Pittsburgh Mills, I noticed all the pigeons and had a similiar thought as Steve V, while crossing this bridge..should make a great nesting place..let’s keep our fingers crossed..at least this bridge was painted not long ago and does not seem to be on the rehab or repair list..great news for the PFas.

    Happy New Year to all!!

  3. Marge V.on 28 Dec 2009 at 1:55 pm

    This is soooo neat!! Thanks for posting this, Kate. Do you recall Steve Gosser stating he saw a peregrine under this bridge last year? It would really be special if they are both Pittsburgh birds, and the male is your Pitt peregrine. I have parked in that parking lot also under the bridge and watched for one as I shop in Lower Burrell often. I’m going to have to check it out again soon, too!!

  4. Kate St. Johnon 28 Dec 2009 at 3:23 pm

    See my “p.s.” above. The female has been identified!

  5. Steve Gosseron 28 Dec 2009 at 4:45 pm

    As Marge mentioned, I did see a pair at the Tarentum bridge this past January. They stayed there through February but then by March they seemed to have left. I wonder if this is the same pair? It would be so cool if they decide to stay there this year and nest!

  6. Steve Von 29 Dec 2009 at 11:16 am

    How do we go about getting a nesting box installed? My supervisor is the pack leader for a local Scout group, I’m sure they would be willing to do the work on putting it together.
    I still plan on heading up there this weekend to see if I can spot anything. I’ll try and get some extra pairs of eyes to come with me.

  7. Kate St. Johnon 29 Dec 2009 at 11:38 am

    Don’t worry about a nest box yet. They might not need one at all. The peregrines at McKees Rocks and Monaca bridges have nested successfully for many years without nest boxes. Amazingly there are places inside the bridge structures that can sustain a peregrine nest.

    Here’s what to expect regarding a nest box based on my many years of peregrine experience in Pittsburgh:
    First, we wait and see what happens during this breeding season. Maybe these two aren’t a pair, maybe they won’t stay at the bridge. To know if they’ve chosen this site dedicated observers – like you – will need watch the peregrines from February through June to see if they nest successfully. If they do, no nest box is needed. If they stay but the nest fails the PA Game Commission will determine if they need a nest box or if the failure is due to some other reason.

    These birds are young and have time to figure things out. Peregrines often have a nest failure in their first attempt. Sometimes they wait to breed until they are three years old.

    Keep watching! I will post tips on watching nesting peregrines on my Peregrine FAQs page when I get a chance.

  8. Jon 29 Dec 2009 at 1:32 pm

    That’s really cool. I am reminded of your blog entry from 2/3/2008 when you declared a Pittsburgh dynasty after misidentifying Bo as having been born at the Gulf Tower (oddly enough in the same clutch that bore E2). Now we really do have a Pittsburgh Peregrine Dynasty with 4 generations of males nesting in the area (Erie – Louie – E2 – E2’s son). Does the female have a name and will E2’s son be given a name now that he has apparently found a home and a mate?

  9. Kate St. Johnon 29 Dec 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Neither peregrine is named yet. Sometimes the observers name them because it’s too hard to talk about a pair of peregrines without any names.

  10. Steve Von 30 Dec 2009 at 8:55 am

    Estelle Harris, who played George Costanza’s mom on Seinfeld, went to Tarentum HS, in case anyone is looking for names from the area.

    http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/participant.jsp?spid=81679&apid=0

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