Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

Feb 28 2015

New Nest Box at Tarentum

Tarentum Bridge nestbox project, The Bucket Truck, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

The PennDOT Bucket dips down to the middle pier at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

If you saw the peregrine banding at the Tarentum Bridge last May, you’ll remember the nest was in a dangerous place.  The entrance hole pointed down over open water and there were no perches nearby.  After banding the chicks the PA Game Commission placed them on the mid-river pier where they learned to fly in safety.  (Click here to see last year’s site.)

Thinking ahead to this year, it’s no wonder the Game Commission decided to place a nestbox on the bridge. Rob Protz, Marge Van Tassel and I braved 9oF to watch the installation yesterday morning.

Brrr!   Marge took our picture with one of the PennDOT crew.

PennDOT bridge worker + Rob Protz + Kate St. John (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

PennDOT bridge worker, Rob Protz and Kate St. John at Tarentum Boat Ramp, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Before the installation began we saw two peregrines!

Around 9:00am the female 69/Z, nicknamed Hope, flew from the bridge.  Rob Protz saw her land in a tree so we went over and Marge took her picture.  (This was one of the few times I’ve ever seen a peregrine perched in a tree.)  Within a half hour, Hope’s mate came by for a courtship flight and the pair disappeared upriver.

Female peregrine, Hope, perched in a tree in Tarentum, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Female peregrine, Hope, perched in a tree in Tarentum, 27 Feb 2015 (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Meanwhile PennDOT District 11 blocked a lane of traffic on the bridge, set up the Bucket Truck, and delivered PA Game Commission biologist Tom Keller to the catwalk.  While he climbed down the ladder to the mid-river pier, Hope returned and noticed something was up. She watched the project from the upriver navigation light.

Female peregrine, Hope, watches the nestbox project from the upriver navigation light (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Female peregrine, Hope, watches the nestbox project from the upriver navigation light (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

The Bucket delivered tools, gravel and the new nestbox to Tom.

Tom Keller guides the nestbox as it drops from The Bucket Truck (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

Tom Keller guides the nestbox as it drops from The Bucket Truck (photo by Marge Van Tassel)

While he cleared ice from the pier he was joined by another member of the PennDOT crew.

PGC's Tom Keller and  PennDOT worker installing nestbox on Tarentum Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

PGC’s Tom Keller and PennDOT worker install nestbox at the Tarentum Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

They positioned the box with its back to the prevailing wind, drilled holes to anchor it, added a perch pole, and filled it with gravel.

Tarentum Bridge nestbox (photo by Tom Keller)

Tarentum Bridge nestbox (photo by Tom Keller, PA Game Commission)

Ta dah!

Tom Keller, PGC, and PennDOT worker District 11 next to new peregrine nestbox on the Tarentum Bridge (photo from Tom Keller)

Tom Keller and Steve from PennDOT with new peregrine nestbox at Tarentum Bridge (photo from Tom Keller)

Now we wait and see, and hope that “Hope” will use it this year.


(photos by Marge Van Tassel, Kate St. John and Tom Keller.  See captions for photo credits)

p.s. Steve, picture above on the bridge with Tom, is the one who built the box of cedar to PGC’s specification.

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Feb 25 2015

Peregrine Nesting Season is Almost Here!

Peregrine nestlings, two weeks old at the Gulf Tower, 7 May 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Though the Hays bald eagles are incubating eggs in their icy nest, Pittsburgh’s peregrines are hanging back — but that’s about to change.

Peregrines in western Pennsylvania lay eggs from mid-March to early April.  In late February they make courtship flights together when the weather is good (when has it been good?!).  Then in early March they bow at the nest.

You can watch this up close on the National Aviary falconcams:

Drama is possible at any site in March. Younger peregrines arrive to challenge the older ones.  (Not only is Dorothy 16, but Louie at the Gulf Tower is 13 this year.)  Nevertheless by mid-May there will be bright-eyed nestlings on camera.

To get you in the mood for nesting season, click here or on the photo above for nesting highlights from last spring at the Gulf Tower.

Peregrine nesting season is almost here!


p.s.  Pittsburgh’s six other peregrine sites can be monitored from the ground:

  • Tarentum Bridge: PGC and PennDOT will install a nest box this Friday 2/27 at 9:00am.  Come watch from the boat ramp under the bridge.  There were 2 chicks here last year.
  • Monaca-East Rochester Bridge: 4 chicks in 2014
  • Westinghouse Bridge: 2 chicks in 2014
  • Neville Island I-79 Bridge: 1 chick in 2014
  • McKees Rocks Bridge: Nest could not be found
  • Green Tree water tower:  No nest in 2014

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

p.p.s.  Right on schedule, guess who came to visit at the Cathedral of Learning nest this afternoon … E2 calls, “Hey, Dorothy!”

E2 calls for Dorothy to come bow at the nest (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Pitt)

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Feb 09 2015

Pittsburgh Peregrine In Wetzel County

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine falcon bands captured on camera at Wetzel County 911, New Martinsville, WV

An immature peregrine falcon banded at Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower last spring has been hanging out in Wetzel County, West Virginia this winter.

Staff at Wetzel County Emergency Services in New Martinsville wondered about the bands on this “hawk” so they took a picture on January 23 and sent it to the banding lab at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland.

Patuxent knew the bands were issued to a peregrine in Pennyslvania so they sent the photo to Art McMorris asking if he recognized them.  Indeed, he did.

This male peregrine was banded at the Gulf Tower on May 20, 2014 by Dan Brauning and Tom Keller. At only 8 months old he’s still in brown juvenile plumage so he resembles a young red-tailed hawk.  I’m glad he revealed his bands.

As Art said, “It’s nice to know that another one of our peregrines is out there, doing well in the world!”


Click here for banding event “baby pictures” of the siblings last May.

(photo from Wetzel County Emergency Center staff in New Martinsville, West Virginia)

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Jan 24 2015

Johnstown Peregrine On The News

Published by under Peregrines

Screenshot from WJAC news of Johnstown peregrine

No, this peregrine is not in jail.  It’s looking into an office window.

If you’re not a member of Pittsburgh Falconuts’ Facebook page or PABIRDS you may not know that a peregrine falcon has been hanging out at the First National Bank in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Until last winter peregrines were unheard of in the city made famous by The Johnstown Flood.

The bird became famous himself (or herself?) when a bank employee snapped this photo from her office window.  Click here or on the screenshot above to watch the news on WJAC-TV, Johnstown.

Peregrines have never nested in Johnstown but spring is coming and this falcon may be creating a completely new territory and advertizing for a mate.

Thanks to Johnstown birder Linda Greble (seen in the video) for being such a great advocate for peregrine falcons in Johnstown.


(screenshot from WJAC-TV online news.  Click on the image to see the video)

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Jan 22 2015

Virginia’s Peregines Thrive

Published by under Peregrines

Mother peregrine at the Tarentum Bridge, 23 June 2012 (photo by Sean Dicer)

The female peregrine at the Tarentum Bridge is from Virginia (photo by Sean Dicer)

Last week William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) published news of Virginia’s peregrine falcons in 2014.

As in Pennsylvania, Virginia’s breeding peregrine population has climbed from zero in the early 1970s to a nest count that matches the pre-DDT days.  But just as in Pennsylvania most peregrines don’t nest in the mountains anymore.

Breeding peregrine falcons in Virginia from 1977-2014. Data from CCB.

Breeding peregrine falcons in Virginia from 1977-2014. Graph courtesy of the Center for Conservation Biology

In the report Libby Mojica of CCB writes, “Virginia’s falcon population is predominantly on the coastal plain with 24 breeding pairs on the coast including 10 [man-made] peregrine towers, 1 ground nest, 8 bridges, 1 Coast Guard navigation tower, 2 fishing shacks, 1 power plant stack, and 1 high-rise building. The population in the western part of the state remains small with only 3 pairs nesting on rock cliffs.”

Because of strong winds fledgling mortality is high at Virginia’s peregrine bridges so each year CCB, in cooperation with VDOT, translocates some of the bridge fledglings to hack boxes in the Shenandoah Mountains.  This gives the young peregrines a better chance at life and may even persuade a few to nest in the mountains.

“Hope,” who nests at the Tarentum Bridge, was one of those translocated birds.  She hatched on the Benjamin Harrison Bridge in Hopewell, Virginia in 2008 and was hacked in the Shenandoahs but she didn’t stay there long.  Instead she flew nearly 200 miles northwest to nest on a bridge over the Allegheny River.  We’re happy to have her!

Click here or on the population graph to read more about Virgina’s peregrine falcons in 2014.  Scroll down to see a photo of a ground-nesting peregrine on the sand dunes.


(photo of “Hope” by  Sean Dicer. Graph of Virginia’s breeding peregrines courtesy of the Center for Conservation Biology)

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Jan 07 2015

Raiding The Pantry

How brave is a hungry owl?

In Bath, England St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church hosts a peregrine nestbox where The Hawk and Owl Trust runs a falconcam.  The peregrines can be seen on the webcam all year long because they use the nest ledge as a cache area in the off season.

Early last month the webcam picked up night-time activity when a tawny owl(*) discovered the peregrines’ cache.  In the video the owl feasts on leftover pigeon, eventually nervous that he might be seen.  Would the peregrines show up or would they sleep through his visit unaware?

The owl ate his fill without incident and remembered where he’d found this easy meal.  On subsequent nights he raided the pantry again and again until the peregrines got wise to him and stopped caching on the ledge.

The owl still visits and makes a thorough search, just in case. Here he stops by on New Year’s Day.

Oh well.  The party’s over.  There are only so many times you can raid the pantry before the owners stop stocking it!


Thanks to Hawk and Owl Trust for tweeting these cool videos.  Visit their website for more information about the Bath and Norwich peregrines.

(videos from Hawk and Owl Trust, UK)

(*) Tawny owls are Eurasian woodland birds whose closest North American relative is the barred owl.

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Dec 28 2014

Peregrine Holiday Greetings

Published by under Peregrines

Gulf Tower peregrine wishes us Happy Holidays (photo by Ann Hohn)

Dori stopped by last week to wish everyone Happy Holidays.  She looks fierce but she means well.

Thanks to Ann Hohn at Make-A-Wish for sending along this photo that she took from the office window at the Gulf Tower.

Happy Holidays. Really.


(photo by Ann Hohn)

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Dec 17 2014

She Went Far — Very Far

Published by under Peregrines

U.S. Peregrine ends up in Japan (photo of article by Gary Gerhardt in the Rocky Mountain News, July 16, 1993)

In February 1993 Mamoru Nakamura photographed a female peregrine 100 km southwest of Tokyo.  She didn’t look like one of two peregrine subspecies normally found in Japan and she had bands that no one recognized — an all-black band on her left leg 5/V* and a silver band on her right.

Her photograph made its way to Japanese raptor expert Teruaki Morioka, co-author of Birds of Japan in Photographs and author of Birds of Prey in Japan.

Believing this peregrine to be a Western Hemisphere anatum subspecies he sent a letter and photo to raptor expert William S. Clark, author of the Peterson Field Guide to Hawks of North America.

Bill sent the photo to the National Park Service who confirmed her identity.  She was banded as a nestling at Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona in June 1991 and photographed in Japan in February 1993.

How did she get there?

The Rocky Mountain News article (snapshot above) called her “Wrong Way Peregrine” because she apparently flew west, not south as expected — but she may have been wandering as peregrines are wont to do.  Mike Britten of the National Park Service speculated that she hitched a ride on a ship crossing the Pacific and disembarked (without passport!) when she reached Japan.  We will never know.

In any case she went far — very far!

I heard about this bird from Bill Clark himself while on the Valley Raptors outing he led at last month’s Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.  As we gazed at a peregrine perched on a water tower, Bill described this 1993 world traveler and later sent me a scan of the news article.

Thank you, Bill, for a great outing and such a wealth of raptor information!  I saw 13 Life Birds and my first ever aplomado falcon, white-tailed hawks and zone-tailed hawk on the Valley Raptors outing.

Check out Bill’s bio and publications here at The Peregrine Fund.


(photo of July 16, 1993 article by Gary Gerhardt in the Rocky Mountain News)

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Dec 12 2014

The Falcon Of The Queen

Screenshot of Falco della regina (screenshot from YouTube)

This beautiful YouTube video shows a family of Eleonora’s falcons (Falco eleonorae) at their summer home in Sardinia.

Eleonora’s falcon is an Old World hobby(*) falcon that winters in Madagascar and East Africa and nests on barren islands in the Mediterranean.  It was named for Eleonor of Arborea, national heroine of Sardinia. When you know Eleonor’s history you can see the honor of this name.

Eleonor took over Arborea, a sovereign state in west-central Sardinia, in a moment of crisis in 1383. The Crown of Aragon based in Barcelona had conquered all of Sardinia except Arborea and succession to the Arborean throne was shaken by the murder of Hugh III. Eleonor’s infant son Frederick was next in line to the throne so she rushed to Arborea and became regent Judge at age 36. In the first four years of her reign she united the Sardinians in a war against Aragon and won back nearly all of the island.

Eleonor’s greatest legacy was the Carta de Logu, the laws she promulgated in 1395.  Advanced for its time the laws were a uniform code of justice, publicly available, that set most criminal penalties as fines instead of imprisonment or death and preserved the property rights of women.  The Carta de Logu was so good that it lasted four centuries.

Eleonor passed another important though lesser known law: the protection of this falcon that bears her name.

As the video title says in Italian, this is the Falcon of the Queen.


(video posted on YouTube by santonagriva)

(*) Hobbies are smaller than peregrines, larger than American kestrels, and were often used by falconers to hunt birds. “Hobby” does not mean amateur pastime. Instead this word comes from Old French, probably derived from Middle Dutch “hobeler” which means to turn or roll.

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Dec 08 2014

How To Escape A Peregrine Attack

If you haven’t seen this amazing video yet  …

Do great horned owls swim?  You bet they do if there’s nowhere else to go.

Last week passersby at Chicago’s Loyola Park saw a pair of peregrine falcons chasing a great horned owl away from their territory.  The owl flew out over Lake Michigan but the peregrines kept hammering it.  Eventually their attack forced the owl to ditch in the lake. Only then did the peregrines leave him alone.

Unlike ospreys, owls aren’t built to go airborne directly from the water so the owl swam the butterfly stroke to get back to shore.  peasant1 on YouTube captured it on video.

On the beach the owl caught his breath and dried out a bit before flying to a tree down the street.  Sand in wet feathers.  What an embarrassing mess!

That’s the last time this owl goes near Loyola Park!


(videos by peasant1 on YouTube, originally publicized by Fox 6 News)

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