May 18 2010

Three Boys and Two Girls

Published by at 1:03 pm under Peregrines

At the peregrine banding this morning we learned there are three male and two female chicks at the Cathedral of Learning this year. 

It was a typical banding day. 

For starters, it rained.  Guests and officials assembled in the banding area with suppressed excitement.  The media arrived with several reporters, photographers and a TV camera crew.

The adult peregrines became wary as banding time approached.  They probably guessed something was up because of the indoor noise and the memory that their chicks are banded every year at this age. 

Dorothy perched atop the snapshot camera.  E2 waited on the roof to swoop at intruders.   

As soon as Beth Fife and Doug Dunkerley of the Pennsylvania Game Commission began to approach the nest E2 flew by, kakk-ing in alarm, and Dorothy jumped into the nest with wings spread and hackles raised.  “Stay away from our babies!”

Beth captured Dorothy in a large net (like a butterfly net) and handed her into the building so she and Doug could collect the chicks without being attacked.  Then Beth gathered the chicks into two large pasteboard boxes and brought them indoors.

All five chicks and their mother received health checkups from Dr. Robert Wagner from University of Pittsburgh Veterinary Services.  The chicks were weighed to determine their sex and then banded.  Three boys and two girls.  All healthy.

The banding took only half an hour and then Beth and Doug were ready to return them to the nest, but not before cleaning up the mess — enough to fill two plastic grocery bags.

Believe it or not an avid young birder is now in happy possession of Dorothy’s garbage.  Just as he did last year, he will identify the feathers and determine what prey the peregrines are eating.  Some of us took a quick look at the debris and identified blue jay, oriole and possibly indigo bunting feathers.  But we couldn’t look long.  It smelled bad! 

When the chicks were safe in the nest, Dr. Todd Katzner released Dorothy who flew back to the nest immediately and saw that her kids were fine.  Beth looked out to make sure Dorothy was OK and, in a parting shot, Dorothy got the last word.  She swooped at Beth’s head and nearly hit her.  Yow!

“Don’t mess with my nest!”

(photos by Kate St. John and from the National Aviary snapshot webcam.  Watch the streaming cam here)

18 responses so far

18 Responses to “Three Boys and Two Girls”

  1. Marianneon 18 May 2010 at 1:15 pm

    This is such an interesting and informative story! Great pics too! Thanks Kate!

    You can tell how big the chicks really are when being held by a human. It is hard to get a perspective of their size in the nest box.

  2. lisaon 18 May 2010 at 2:14 pm

    University of Pittsburgh has a veterinary school? I did not know that.

  3. Kate St. Johnon 18 May 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Lisa, You’re right. Dr. Wagner is from “Verterinary Services” not “School.” I corrected it in the ext.

  4. Jennieon 18 May 2010 at 2:46 pm

    It is such good news that all five are healthy. I noticed that, after their return to the nest, even the most adventurous of the group seemed to prefer a huddle to exploring the box. A little lunch made everything better. Thanks again, Kate, for keeping us so well informed.

  5. Lucieon 18 May 2010 at 3:07 pm

    great story and pics. I was watching on the still camera as Dorothy was scooped up and as Doug grabbed the chicks. I was surprised that they didn’t have protective clothing on – only gloves. I agree, the chicks look smaller than they are.

    Gulf Tower chicks – is it just me or do they still look a little wobbly? That one little guy seems to never be able to stand up and get fed. I think the “lawn” needs mowed as it is pretty hard to see the babies behind the grass. (^+^)

  6. faith Cornellon 18 May 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Just got home from Oakland/Shadyside from a CT scan. Was looking up up Forbes & down 5th. Didn’t see anybody big up there. Glad all went well. So excited about fledge week (sort of like pledge week to a college town) Told several nurses about it they were excited. One said they might even venture out that weekend. Spread the bird news. Thanks so much for ongoing news & picture.

  7. Joannon 18 May 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Can they fix the Gulf Tower camera so we can see more of the nest & the chicks? The weeds make it hard to see them. I was a little surprised when I came to the COL website & saw a man trying to get out of the way after putting the chicks back in their nest & how nice of them to clean it up(though it won’t take too long before it’s just as messy)! The chicks seemed a bit hyper & decided to cuddle together afterward but I didn’t see Dorothy or E2 coming into the nest to make sure they were okay until they got fed.

  8. Kate St. Johnon 18 May 2010 at 3:40 pm

    You didn’t see Dorothy or E2 coming into the nest because they were perched at their guarding zones. Dorothy went back her perch on the snapshot camera — the perfect place to watch the nest and be ready to attack people. …I will ask about the zoom.

  9. Joannon 18 May 2010 at 4:20 pm

    They did zoom back but now can they zoom up so we can see past the greenery( or above the greenery). This way we can see the chicks who are getting fed right now. Thank you.

  10. Kate St. Johnon 18 May 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Sorry, Joann, the camera is on a fixed post & cannot be raised any higher. Until the plants are “weeded” on Banding Day they will be in the way.

  11. Wexfordon 18 May 2010 at 4:57 pm

    How come E2 wasn’t as protective of the nest as Dorothy was? Maternal instinct stronger?

    Any attempts to find if chics hatched (and maybe band them there too) at the other pittsburgh locations, like Tarentum bridge, McKeesport bridge, etc?

    I was also curious if the camera aparatus looks like the snapshot camera that Dorothy likes to perch on.

  12. Kate St. Johnon 18 May 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Among peregrines the males defend the general territory and the females defend the nest — that’s just how they divide up the duties. It may be that since the females are larger they stand a better chance against a ground predator (like humans).
    Beth Fife checked the other locations at the end of April. Most had no eggs. She will check again to make sure.
    The snapshot camera is the one Dorothy is perched on. The streaming cam looks a lot like it.

  13. SueGon 18 May 2010 at 5:22 pm

    How does Dorothy allow herself to be netted? It must be difficult.

  14. Kate St. Johnon 18 May 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Don’t know. She used to fly away. One year she stood in the way on the nest & got caught. Now she does that every year.

  15. Lucieon 19 May 2010 at 7:42 am

    Maybe Dorothy has figured out that if she gets caught, too, she can go wherever it is that her chicks go. It was amazing to me that it seemed so “effortless” when Beth got her in the net.

    How does Beth check the other locations for eggs – on bridges, etc that are so high up?
    Is it painful for the chicks when those feathers start coming in, or just anoying? I see
    the COL kids constantly picking at themselves….

  16. Kate St. Johnon 19 May 2010 at 9:33 am

    Beth works with PennDOT to gets access to the sites. PennDOT staff provide equipment – sometimes a bridge inspection truck – and accompany her during the search.
    Regarding the chick’s new feathers: Be watching for my Bird Anatomy lesson on Friday!

  17. monica maloneyon 19 May 2010 at 10:18 am

    What a unique & beautiful experience to observe each year, I so look forward to springtime & the chance to learn more about these fabulous birds-

    A longtime avian lover & supporter, Monica

  18. Jan Christensenon 19 May 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Kate, I was working the polls yesterday and missed everything!! Thanks for the wonderful article and pictures. I was wondering….did they name the new little ones?? Jan

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