Mar 25 2010

New female peregrine at Gulf Tower!

Published by at 12:20 pm under Peregrines


Something strange has been going on at Gulf Tower since last weekend.  Now we know why!

It began Friday night, March 19.  Tasha sat on the nest at 10:40pm and watched the sky.  Within minutes she stepped out of view and from that point onward we heard periodic wailing for most of the night, though no peregrine was visible.  Wailing can mean many things including “come here” and “stay away,” but it isn’t the sound of peregrines locked in combat. 

That night there was no evidence of a fight at the nest — no fight sounds, no birds on camera. 

An hour before dawn Tasha returned to the nest and slept.  Half an hour later Louie arrived and tried to bow with her but Tasha would not bow.  She looked at him, then left to tackle whatever was out there.  It was a young female peregrine challenging her for the site.

For three and a half hours nothing happened.  Silence.  Then Tasha arrived at the nest, all pumped up and running on adrenaline (if peregrines have adrenaline).  She was sleeked for battle and her left wing drooped, an old injury she hid most of the time.  She shouted excitedly to Louie and left quickly.  

Louie lingered at the nest for several minutes.  At one point he stood over Tasha’s two eggs, yipping softly, but something in the sky soon distracted him and he bounded off stage.  In half an hour Tasha appeared again very briefly.  That was 10:45am, the last time she appeared on camera.

Seven hours of silence.  Nothing except for two brief visits by Louie alone. 

Then at 5:45pm Louie arrived at the nest and called, “Come bow with me.”  His audience needed encouragement.  He called and called, bowed and bowed.  Finally his new lady arrived, a female peregrine with a pale back, no white wing feather and in top physical condition.  For the next several hours they repeatedly courted at the nest.  She was now his queen.

That was Saturday night, March 20.  There are no video archives for several days after that, but everyone watching the falconcam knew the situation was odd.  Why were two peregrines at the nest but no one incubating the eggs?  

Yesterday Dr. Todd Katzner of the National Aviary went to the Gulf Tower to solve the mystery.  He was able to observe the new female and read her bands as she courted with Louie: black/green M/93.  Born at the Landmark Building in Akron, Ohio in 2007, her back is paler than Tasha’s and her wings are normal.  She has no white wing feather. 

Since Monday the fervent peregrine watchers at Make-A-Wish, whose offices are near the nest, suspected Tasha was gone forever.  They’ve been Tasha’s fans for many years and were sad about this turn of events, so they wanted to honor the new female with a happy, hopeful name.  Even before they knew her identity they called her Dori, which means “wish” in Romanian. (*)

Dori has wanted to nest in Pittsburgh for quite a while.  She first tried the 62nd Street Bridge where she was identified last October by Dan Yagusic, but she kept a lonely vigil there, unable to attract a mate to the site.  In January Dan found her at the 40th Street Bridge, still alone.

As spring approached her hormones kicked in as they do for all peregrines.  Dori needed a nest and a mate.  The bridges were fruitless.  She flew downstream… and the rest is history.

Tasha was a very successful peregrine.  When she disappeared last weekend she was at least 14 years old and had raised 44 young at the Gulf Tower.   

We wish the same great success for Dori.  May she live long and have many babies!  

And, yes, we’re all watching for her first egg.

(two snapshots of Dori from the National Aviary webcam at the Gulf Tower)

p.s. Remember the video of two peregrines courting on Saturday evening?  I was wrong!  Tasha isn’t in that picture.  They’re Louie and Dori.  Click here to watch.

(*) Dori has many names.  Dori is her nest site name, Mary Cleo is her banding day name, and Louie has a special name for her that is unpronounceable by humans.

47 responses so far

47 Responses to “New female peregrine at Gulf Tower!”

  1. Jennieon 25 Mar 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you for clearing up this mystery, Kate. It’s good to know that Louie can fulfill his need to procreate. Does anyone know what happened to Tasha? Was she hurt or just driven away?

  2. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2010 at 12:41 pm

    We know she was driven away but have no idea what happened during that process.

  3. Joannon 25 Mar 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I’m sad to see Tasha go but hopefully Louie & Dori will have many chicks together. Thanks for clearing up the mystery Kate but what will happen to the 2 eggs Tasha laid? Will Dori or Louie kick them out of the nest eventually?

  4. Kathy McCharenon 25 Mar 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Yes, thanks, Kate, for the info on Tasha and the Gulf nest. What will happen Tasha’s two eggs? Will Aviary staff remove them? Will Dori lay her eggs in a different place in the nest? I too hope that Tasha was not hurt…

  5. kat walterson 25 Mar 2010 at 1:37 pm

    What will happen to the eggs that Tasha2 laid? How old is 14 in Falconland? Will she be able to start another nest? As you can see I have lots of questions, but always enjoy your site and very informative. Tasha, we wish you well and thanks for all the good times!

  6. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2010 at 1:42 pm

    We don’t know what will happen to the 2 eggs. Peregrines in the wild (i.e. on cliffs) deal with this situation without human intervention so I’m sure they’ll figure it out on their own. We’ll have to watch & see what they do.

    Falcon age, see: http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/peregrine-faqs/question-what-happens-as-peregrines-age/

    Will Tasha start another nest? Doubtful.

  7. kat walterson 25 Mar 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Akron site says that new girl is Mary Cleo from 2007!

  8. Amy Taracidoon 25 Mar 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Excellent summary Kate! I feel so sad for Tasha and I will always wonder where she went. But it sounds like Dori fought strongly to find a “home” and she’s done it. I’m glad to know that Tasha had a long successful time there too. Will her eggs be “adopted” by Dori or will Dori rid of them?

  9. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Yes, she was named Mary Cleo at banding & given the name Dori by her local fans so she has 4 names now: Dori, Mary, Cleo and XXX. XXX is the name Louie calls her by & we will never know what that is.

    For a discussion of peregrine naming see: http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/peregrine-faqs/question-how-do-peregrines-get-their-names/

  10. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Dori is unlikely to adopt Tasha’s eggs. In addition, the eggs are so old now and have been untended for so long that they are probably not viable.

  11. Marianneon 25 Mar 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you so much for the well-written and informative story about Tasha! The mystery has been solved! At least it is still early enough that Dori should be able to lay some eggs!

  12. Jon 25 Mar 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Very nice writeup Kate. I actually did hear some odd wailing noises on the Gulf Tower falcon cam recently though I forget what day it was. Also yesterday afternoon I saw 2 peregrines bowing in the nest and noticed one of them appeared to have a white spot on their back.

  13. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Louie is the one with the white spot on his back. Who knew!

  14. Joannon 25 Mar 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I am watching the Gulf Tower Cam now & Louie & I assume it was Dori or Mary Cleo bowing & screeching at each other then I think it was Louie got tired of it & flew off. Right now one of them is sitting on Tasha’s eggs. Poor Louie got yelled at by Tasha quite a few times even though he was bowing to save his life & it seems he will be “falconpecked” by Dori as well.

  15. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Bowing & screeching is what peregrines do. ;)
    Female peregrines are generally dominant over their mates. (Female peregrines are 1/3 larger than the males.) Just as with humans, the mated pair tempers their responses to each other to make the marriage work.

  16. Cris Hamiltonon 25 Mar 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Great detective work, Kate.

    Thanks for passing all that information along, and hope Tasha is OK!

  17. Kathyon 25 Mar 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Kate, Thank you once again for such a wonderful summary. I am so sorry for the loss of Tasha, but am hopeful for Louie and Dorie. It is the natural order of things. I am sure we will have wonderful little fluff balls with BYF to admire in the years to come. (BYF=Big Yellow Feet!)

  18. M Yontzon 25 Mar 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Yes, thanks for all the wonderful information. I too am very sad for Tasha.

  19. Mary Jo Bermanon 26 Mar 2010 at 1:23 am

    periodic wailing, is what you said.

    “Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
    is what I heard.
    (Dylan Thomas)

  20. M Yontzon 26 Mar 2010 at 6:04 am

    It is 6:02 AM Friday and there if a falcon sitting on Tasha’s eggs. Is that probably Louie? Remember, this is the first year I have watched these amazing birds.

  21. Kate St. Johnon 26 Mar 2010 at 6:26 am

    6:15am: Not sure who it is. Probably Louie. Per the archives, the eggs were not incubated overnight even when it snowed, but it’s typical for the male to come to the nest around dawn to take over incubation. This bird arrived at about 4:45am.

  22. Tracion 26 Mar 2010 at 7:47 am

    Per my webcapture images so far this morning, off and on from 7am, it is Louie sitting on the eggs. He has that unmistakeable white patch on his upper back, b/w the wings. He comes and sits, then leaves sometimes calling to Dori, I suppose.

    I haven’t seen her yet so far this morning.

    MaryJo – I loved your post from Dylan!! Beautiful and fitting for Tasha.

  23. Joannon 26 Mar 2010 at 11:34 am

    Well unless I’m mistaken it looks like there are 3 eggs at the Gulf tower all in the same spot where Tasha laid her eggs but nobody seems to be there now at 11:34 AM.

  24. Kate St. Johnon 26 Mar 2010 at 11:43 am

    As of a few hours ago when PixController zoomed the camera there were still only 2 eggs. It looks like Dori is working on her own scrape. …But I could be wrong.

  25. Jennieon 26 Mar 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Do males get involved in making the scrape? If not, then it’s Dori that has been working on making new scrapes this week, one directly in front of the two eggs, two more to the rear left. A falcon has shown up often, laying in the depressions and pushing back/out with his/her feet, especially the one in front of the eggs.

  26. Kate St. Johnon 26 Mar 2010 at 12:40 pm

    The male helps make the scrape too. At the start of nest selection he typically he shows her several locations, he might even dig at several, but she makes the final choice. Chances are good that you’re often seeing Dori.

  27. Marianneon 26 Mar 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I was thinking there may be 3 eggs this morning also. It was hard to tell. It was great that PixController zoomed the camera so we could tell for sure!

  28. Gloriaon 26 Mar 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Kate: Why would Louie contine to sit on Tasha’s eggs if he has taken up with Dori? Any insight into this behavior?

  29. Kate St. Johnon 26 Mar 2010 at 9:22 pm

    This may be merely my imagination but I think birds view their eggs as “almost” babies. They guard & protect them and they know that if tended properly the eggs will become baby birds. Perhaps Louie sits on the eggs because with all this courting he’s thinking about becoming a parent and those eggs are, after all, his “kids.”
    They aren’t Dori’s so I’m not surprised she doesn’t bother with them.

  30. M Yontzon 26 Mar 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Where do Dori and Louie go when they aren’t at the nest? I too saw Dorie scratching in a nest this morning. The kids got to see her to and they were very excited! We are hoping to see her lay an egg soon!

    Also, will Dorothy have a hard time keep the eggs warm with it getting so cold tonight?

  31. Kate St. Johnon 27 Mar 2010 at 6:43 am

    Where do they go when not on camera?
    Both nests are on 40-story buildings with lots of ledges, nooks and crannies. The birds perch high on their “home” building when not on the nest.
    When it is not nesting season (from summer to the following spring), they never stay at the nest. The nest is the babies’ crib, not the parents’ bed. Instead they perch up high and watch what’s going on or they sleep. If they see a bird they want to eat, they fly off the building and catch it.
    During nesting season, when one bird is on the nest the other perches nearby watching for danger or waiting for food to fly by.

  32. Kate St. Johnon 27 Mar 2010 at 7:05 am

    Can they keep the eggs warm when it’s cold?
    Peregrines time their egg laying so the young will hatch when the most food is available (i.e. lots of birds to eat). This means they lay eggs when the nights can still go below freezing. Very bad weather that lasts for many days such as storms with snow/wind/ice/rain do result in fewer hatched eggs. In wild places such as Acadia National Park in Maine, a stormy wet spring can cause nest failure.
    The weather we’re having now with above-freezing sunny days and just-below-freezing (28 degrees) nights is not going to be a problem.

  33. Tracion 27 Mar 2010 at 7:49 am

    The GT eggs are such a curious thing.

    Tasha tried to protect them in that from my perspective, she took the fight away from the nest. Completely away. She protected those eggs to the end.

    So, it would follow that Louie would still view them as ‘babies’…but I also like the idea that he keeps sitting on them to show Dori he’s a viable mate. As though he’s saying, “See! I’ll sit on them too!”

    I just watched Dori make a scrape behind the eggs and then she seemed to sorta sit over the eggs. I won’t say sat on them…but she was on top of them for a minute.
    Maybe entertaining the idea – “Well, he keeps sitting over here, these eggs are here, maybe I should consider it.” She just went off site and now Louie is sitting on the eggs chirping at her.

    I think he wants her to get on with it! Let’s raise some babies!! :)

  34. Jennieon 27 Mar 2010 at 9:59 am

    That’s a very interesting perspective on Tasha protecting the eggs. A mother rabbit will leave her young to draw a predator away from them. The female killdeer fakes a wing injury to draw predators away from her nest. Why wouldn’t a falcon try to lure danger away from the nest?

    Is it too late in the season for Dori and Louie to start a family?

  35. Kate St. Johnon 27 Mar 2010 at 10:03 am

    Too late? Heavens no! They’re right on time. Most peregrines in the middle latitudes (such as Pittsburgh & Ohio) haven’t laid eggs yet. They lay between mid-March and mid-April.

  36. faith Cornellon 27 Mar 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I am very frustrated. I was able to get in the site readily but not even tho I am signed in twice All I get is a chat room & cannot access camera anymore. I clickon the whitecircle. Have tried going in thru the actual wild site but only get old ones. Not the actual. Faith Cornell

  37. Kate St. Johnon 27 Mar 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I’ve been through that too, Faith. I wrote some tips on what to do, recently updated here: http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/2010/03/22/streaming-webcams-update/
    Hope it helps!

  38. M Yontzon 27 Mar 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I sure hope you don’t get tired of all my questions. Will Dorothy and E2 have to have to worry about another bird challenging their nest yet this year? I was watching earlier and there was a lot of screeching going on and they usually are very calm. I think Louie was on the nest because he looked smaller to me. He kept screeching “gently” and in the background you could hear another falcon also screeching. I got a little concerned, but it appears things are once again calm. OK. Now I am worried. The eggs are unattended! The one that was just on the next started screeching and flew away. No one is on the eggs! Is this normal?

    Something interesting also happened at the Gulf nest a few minutes ago. While I was watching, Dori started trying to move Tashas eggs around. Both her and Louie were in the nest. He was doing a lot of bowing, but flew off. Then Dori walked over to the nest and used her beak to move them. Whoever is in charge of the camera zoomed in, but then she quit and flew away. She is back and now sitting either by or one Tasha’s eggs. I wonder if she is wanting to use the same scratch?

  39. Mary DeVon 27 Mar 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Where is the nest located on Gulf Tower? I was at the Science Center today with my 20×80 binoculars doing Astronomy Weekend stuff, and decided to focus them on GT and look for peregrines. But no sign of any! I will be back tomorrow with the binocs & maybe a small telescope, and would like to try again and show some of the visitors. But I want to look in the right spot! The south corner of the building would make sense, but is that correct? Or am I way off base? Also, what level? Is it on the pyramid, or below? Thanks!

  40. Kate St. Johnon 27 Mar 2010 at 9:50 pm

    The nest is on the north face, overlooking the Strip District and the Allegheny River. Alas it’s the opposite side of the building from the Sciene Center. I have posted instructions on how to see it here: http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/peregrine-faqs/question-where-should-i-look-to-see-the-peregrines-at-gulf-tower/

  41. Mary DeVon 27 Mar 2010 at 11:30 pm

    OK, thanks for the information! Yes, that’s the one corner of the building you really can’t see from the Science Center — too bad. I’ll still try focusing a small telescope on GT tomorrow — maybe we’ll get lucky and catch Louie or Dorie coming in for a landing.

  42. Jon 28 Mar 2010 at 1:52 am

    I also saw/heard a bit of activity around 12:00 Saturday afternoon. I had been watching the cam then went to the kitchen to get something to eat when I heard quite a racket coming from my speakers. I returned to my PC and saw both peregrines were there screeching at each other though I could only see one (The other was apparently behind the big concrete block on the left of the nest box) But the one in view also appeared to have lunch with it (A pigeon judging by the colors). The peregrine poked at it a few times then grabbed it and flew off. A bit later I saw a peregrine sitting on the eggs.

  43. Jon 29 Mar 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Hard to tell, but unless one egg is now directly behind the other, it appears there is only 1 egg at the Gulf Tower now. Not sure if one of them was broken and eaten or if both were broken and Dori/May Cleo laid and egg. The 2 eggs looked like they were beginning to deteriorate yesterday as they had a lot of white marks on them.

  44. Kate St. Johnon 29 Mar 2010 at 1:23 pm

    There are many reasons that peregrines make noise.
    They make soft or even loud noises to keep in contact when they can’t see each other.
    The male calls when he brings food to the nest.
    When there are baby birds they call when food is coming in – or when they want it.

    Peregrines also make a kak-kak-kak-kak call when they’re chasing a predator, whether or not it directly threatens their nest. In Pittsburgh you’ll hear this when they’re chasing red-tailed hawks or turkey vultures, but you won’t see it on the cameras. You will see the bird start to kak-kak-kak and then fly away. No need to worry. Peregrines always win these battles.

  45. Joannon 29 Mar 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I’m not sure if it is Louie or Dori whose sitting on the eggs today but if they were Tasha’s per what Kate has said previously they won’t hatch. I couldn’t tell if there were now 3 eggs(2 of Tasha’s & 1 from Dori) or if it is just the 2 eggs that Tasha laid.

  46. Mary DeVon 29 Mar 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Well, I had no luck pointing my scope at Gulf Tower yesterday — too much rain! So I just showed the visitors the George Washington & Guyasuta statue up on Mt. Washington. But later the rain let up a bit & I looked at GT thru the big binoculars. The peregrines were laying low though, not flying around in the rain. Sometime I’ll try to spot them from the train station side of the building.

  47. david_a_in_MIon 29 Mar 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Kate — I think people would love to see your “History of Peregrine Falcon Nests …” report, but didn’t see an obvious link to it in your FAQ’s. I guess it needs at least one more update now (kinda sadly…)

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