Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

Jun 07 2015

At Neville Island: 1 Down, 1 Up, and 2 to Go

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine fledgling from I-79 Neville Island Bridge, 7 June 2015 (photo by John English)

Peregrine fledgling near I-79 Neville Island Bridge, 7 June 2015 (photo by John English)

The peregrine situation looked sad yesterday at the Neville Island I-79 Bridge when site monitor Anne Marie Bosnyak checked for fledglings. She found one far below on the river’s edge — dead.  Apparently it had landed on the ground and a predator killed it(*).  … 1 Down.

But things looked much better today.  One of the remaining two birds had fledged to a tree.  … 1 Up.

His parents Beau (top left) and Magnum (bottom right) kept a close eye on him.

Beau and Magnum monitor their fledgling, 7 June 2015 (photo by John English)

Beau and Magnum monitor their fledgling, 7 June 2015 (photo by John English)

Meanwhile two nestlings remain at the nest, though only one was seen today.  The youngest, a female, will fly last because she has less feather development and is heavier.  … 2 to Go.


(*)  In the first 24 hours of flight, fledgling peregrines lack the wing strength to take off from the ground.  If they fledge to the ground they just stand there and may fall victim to predators or vehicles.

(photo by John English)

10 responses so far

Jun 06 2015

Photos Solve The Mystery

Published by under Peregrines

Male Peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge, Blk/Grn 19/W, 30 May 2015 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Male Peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge, Blk/Grn 19/W, 30 May 2015 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

When you want to identify a banded peregrine it pays to find a good photographer.

In the old days we read peregrines’ bands using scopes and binoculars but it was notoriously difficult and nearly impossible at high nest sites like the Westinghouse Bridge.

Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

Westinghouse Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

We used to learn the females’ bands on Banding Day because mother peregrines guard the nest, but the males always remained a mystery because they never come close.

However… when the Hays eagle’s nest failed this spring, Dana Nesiti (Eagles of Hays PA) was casting about for a subject to photograph.  Site monitor John English invited Dana to the Westinghouse Bridge.

Right off the bat, Dana documented an unusual changeover.  Early in nesting season his photos showed the resident female was still Hecla (black/red, 68/H) but on April 12 the bands looked different.  His photo of black/green, 66/C revealed that the former resident Storm had ousted her rival.  We would never have known this without Dana’s photos.

Then on May 30 the PA Game Commission’s Art McMorris visited the Westinghouse Bridge to check on the peregrines’ nesting status.  Dana took photos from below while Art found two 5-day-old chicks and three unhatched eggs.   Several photos of the male were good enough to read the bands: black/green, 19/W.

It took a while to find out where this bird came from but it was worth it.  He hatched on Cobb Island in 2006, a barrier island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and was hacked at the New River Gorge, West Virginia as part of the peregrine restoration program.  He had no name.

A Google map of Cobb Island is embedded below (zoom out to see more).  Click here for information on the New River Gorge peregrine program.


Now that he’s nesting this bird gets a name.  John English named him “George” for George Washington of Virginia, George Westinghouse of the Westinghouse Bridge, and the gorge (almost george) of the New River Gorge, West Virginia.

Thanks to Dana Nesiti we now know that Storm and George are at the Westinghouse Bridge.

Photos solved the mystery.


(peregrine photo by Dana Nesiti, map embedded from Google Maps, bridge photo by Kate St. John)

2 responses so far

Jun 03 2015

Estimated 2015 Fledge Dates for Pittsburgh Area Peregrines

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine falcon juvenile at U.S. Steel Tower (photo by Patti Mitsch)

Juvenile peregrine Downtown at U.S. Steel Tower, June 2014 (photo by Patti Mitsch)

Now that peregrine nestlings have been examined and aged in the Pittsburgh area, we can estimate when each site will make its first flight.

The fledging dates below are just estimates, calculated as the 39th day after hatch(*).  Young peregrines fly at 40-45 days old but the actual fledge date is up to the individual bird and sometimes the weather.  Males fly earlier than females because their lighter weight makes it easy to get airborne. In a nest with both male and female chicks the youngest females are alone at the nest for a day or two after the males have left.

In Pittsburgh, point-based Fledge Watches are set for a day or two before expected fledge through at least the second day after the last bird has flown.  Two days before flight it’s fun to watch the birds ledge-walk.  Two days after fledge, young peregrines have enough strength and flight ability to move faster and further than Fledge Watchers can navigate, especially in Downtown Pittsburgh.  At that point the official Fledge Watch dissolves while we wait for random reports of young peregrines peering in windows (nice to know) or accidents requiring rescue.

The table below shows the estimated dates.  Note that end dates always depend on activity at the site.

Nest Site Nestlings 39-day Estimated Fledge Date Watch for accidents until…
Neville Island I-79 Bridge 3 males, 1 female 6/10/2015 (Actual: Two left bridge on 6/6) 6/17 depending on activity
Downtown near corner of
Fifth & Grant
3 chicks, sex unknown, not banded 6/14/2015 (Actual: 1st flew on 6/11) 6/20 depending on activity
Cathedral of Learning at Pitt 1 chick, sex unknown,
development delayed by
5 days as of 5/29/15
6/18 or 6/23/15 due to unknown sex and
delayed development  (Actual: 6/21)
2 Days after the chick fledges
Westinghouse Bridge 2 chicks, sex unknown 7/3/15 7/10 depending on activity


Four of Pittsburgh’s eight peregrine nest sites have either no nesting activity or are a mystery this year.

  • Mystery: Monaca, Beaver County. Nest site is inaccessible on top of the big black P&LE Railroad bridge that crosses the Ohio River from Monaca to Beaver.
  • Mystery: McKees Rocks Bridge. Every year the peregrines’ nest is notoriously hard or impossible to find, even with a bucket truck.  This spring an adult pair was seen on May 24 and the pair “kakked” at a kayaker on the Alcosan side of the river on May 31.  It appears they have young but we have no idea where.
  • No nest:  Tarentum Bridge: This pair has not attempted to nest, perhaps because the male is young and still in juvenile plumage.
  • No peregrines: Green Tree water tower. Nest was attempted in 2013. No peregrines this year.

(photo of a fledgling at the U.S.Steel Tower, June 2014 by Patti Mitsch)

(*) The official first-flight age is 40 days after hatch, but can appear to be 39 days when a bird hatches overnight.

18 responses so far

Jun 02 2015

Pitt Peregrine Discovered at Neville Island

Male peregrine at Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Peter Bell)

Male peregrine at Neville Island I-79 Bridge was born at Pitt (photo by Peter Bell)

Though all eyes were on the peregrine chick at the Cathedral of Learning last Friday, it was also Banding Day at a second Pittsburgh area nest.

After wrapping up in Oakland, I went with PGC’s Art McMorris and Dan Puhala to the Neville Island I-79 Bridge.

Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Kate St. John)

While Art and Dan climbed in the bridge structure with their PennDOT guide, I kept my feet firmly on the ground with nest monitors Anne Marie Bosnyak and Laura Marshall, and with three peregrine enthusiasts: Pitt follower Peter Bell, and Canton, Ohio peregrine monitors Chad Steele and Ray Glover.  Chad and Ray drove two hours to see this banding because the mother bird, Magnum, hatched in downtown Canton in 2010.

Magnum kaks a warning, 29 May 2015 (photo by Peter Bell)

Magnum defends her nest, 29 May 2015 (photo by Peter Bell)

Magnum kicked up a fuss(!) kakking, swooping, even running, always shouting at the top of her lungs.

Her nest is hidden in a box-like recess so the only way Art could retrieve the chicks was to perch over open water and reach in barehanded to feel for them one at a time.  Magnum positioned herself inside the nest between Art’s hand and the chicks and slashed at him with her talons every time he reached.  Ow!

Art McMorris of the PA Game Commission hands off a peregrine chick at the Neville Island I-79 bridge, 29 May 2015 (photo by Peter Bell)

Art McMorris of the PA Game Commission hands off a peregrine chick at the Neville Island I-79 bridge, 29 May 2015 (photo by Peter Bell)

While this was going on Magnum’s unidentified mate gave vocal support from a distance.  For years we’ve known he’s banded but couldn’t read his bands. In the excitement he perched above us and Peter got a clear photograph: Black/Green 05/S.

Male peregrine at Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Peter Bell)

Male peregrine at Neville Island I-79 Bridge (photo by Peter Bell)

I whipped out my Pittsburgh peregrine genealogy (who else would carry this!) and scanned the band numbers.  Surprised to find a match, I learned this bird hadn’t traveled far.  He hatched at the Cathedral of Learning in 2010, son of Dorothy and E2 and the older brother of this year’s chick.  Unnamed at banding, (temporary name was White) Anne Marie and Laura can now give him a permanent name.

His four nestlings at Neville Island I-79 Bridge — three male, one female — are E2’s grandkids.  They’re due to fledge around June 11.

The Pitt Peregrine dynasty continues!


(bridge photo by Kate St. John.  All other photos by Peter Bell)

PGC = Pennsylvania Game Commission

26 responses so far

Jun 01 2015

All About Names

Published by under Peregrines

Nestling and Dorothy, 31 May 2015 (photo from the National Aviary cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

With Dorothy, 31 May 2015 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Now that the chick at the Cathedral of Learning is banded many of you have asked, “When will he get a name?”

The long answer is explored at this FAQ How Do Peregrines Get Their Names? but in short:

  • Some states name the nestlings on Banding Day.  Pennsylvania takes the scientific view and does not.
  • When peregrines nest, it becomes too difficult for observers to discuss them without a name. In Pennsylvania the person(s) who discover/monitor the nest site are the ones who name the adults.  If we can read the peregrine’s band we try to find out if it already has a name.  Most peregrines are unbanded.

In Pennsylvania, fledglings have temporary names during Fledge Watch, based on the colored tape the bander applies to the USFW band on the nestling’s right leg.  Colored tape is used so that Fledge Watch volunteers can identify individual birds with binoculars.  (The black/green band is too hard to read from a distance.)  When there’s only one nestling no colored tape is applied.  The USFW band is silver in Pennsylvania.

The colors don’t change and we reuse the same names year after year: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, White, Silver.  The tape is temporary but is useful in late spring and early summer when the peregrine family is still together in the vicinity of the nest.

At Fledge Watch we describe a bird’s location like this, “Green is on 38th floor, west patio edge.”  If we know the bird is male we might say “Green Boy.”

This nestling has no tape on ‘his’ USFW band and we really don’t know ‘his’ sex so we won’t say Boy or Girl.  At Fledge Watch he’ll just be Silver.

I may as well start calling ‘him’ that right now.


By the way, please do read the naming FAQ.  It explains how Dorothy, E2, Louie and Dori got their names and much much, more.

(photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at the University of Pittsburgh)

27 responses so far

May 30 2015

Nestling News From Pitt

First indoor look at Dorothy and E2's 2015 chick (photo by Kate St. John)

First in-hand look at Dorothy and E2’s 2015 chick (photo by Kate St. John)

I filed a brief report yesterday on the peregrine chick banding at the Cathedral of Learning. Here’s news to fill in the gaps with a note about pronouns.  I’m using the pronouns “he” and “him” though we really don’t know his sex.

Yesterday the chick’s in-hand exam showed he has no deformities but has experienced delayed development.  Peregrine chicks develop so fast that biologists can age them by examining their behavior and measuring their legs and emerging feathers.  Because we have a webcam we know the chick hatched on May 10 making him 19 days old on Banding Day.  If we didn’t know when he hatched, his behavior and measurements say he’s 14 days old.

Here he waited and watched while the vet observed him quietly.

Pitt Peregrine chick (photo by Kate St. John)

Pitt Peregrine chick waits quietly (photo by Kate St. John)

The vet examined his skin and feathers and found parasites (insects) under his wings and in his feathers. Insects arrive at the nest on the bodies of newly killed bird(s) that parents feed to the chicks.  This transfer of insect pests happens so often to young peregrines that the banders always carry medicated powder to dust and debug the nestlings.  This chick was powdered yesterday and soon, or now, is bug-free.  The powder is long-lasting.  He will stay bug-free even if more bugs arrive at the nest.

The chick’s mouth was examined for trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection of the mouth, throat and jaw.  Fortunately he showed no sign of “trich.”

Disease and parasites consume a nestling’s energy and can delay development.  Delay can also result from a less nutritious yolk, a common occurrence in the eggs of older birds (Dorothy is 16).  If the yolk (food) is not nutritious, the embryo is malnourished.  We don’t know if that happened here.

Delayed development made it challenging to determine his sex.  At banding age, male peregrines weigh considerably less than females (2/3) so weight plus days-since-hatch indicate the sex.  How old is this nestling?  19 days on camera but 14 days in-hand.  Since his sex could not be determined he was given the larger size female band in case he/she grows into it.

The vet drew blood for a blood test that will take 10-14 days to complete.  (I’m not a vet and have no idea what they are testing.)  The preliminary result shows the chick is anemic — no surprise since parasites were sucking his blood.  Now that he’s bug-free he can absorb nutrition at a much higher rate.

By the end of the exam he was sitting up and squawking — a really good sign!

Sitting up (photo by Kate St. John)

Sitting up like a Buddha. Peregrines have very large feet (photo by Kate St. John)

With new “bling” on his legs he went back to his parents and spent lots of time sleeping off the excitement.

He’s had some challenges but he’s got great parents and stands a good chance of catching up.

Coming soon:

  • Peregrine nest area diagrams to show that this bird cannot jump/fall off the Cathedral of Learning — even if he wanted to.
  • News of other peregrine nests in Pittsburgh — Neville, Downtown, Westinghouse.


(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. Someone asked if the fluffy leg feathers (“pants”) on Dorothy are a sign of parasites.  No, it’s just one of the many expressive ways birds hold their feathers.  In ravens it’s a way of showing power and superiority.  I don’t know what it means among peregrines.

44 responses so far

May 29 2015

He’s Staying With Mom

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine chick at Cathedral of Learning, 29 May 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

This Cathedral of Learning peregrine chick is banded and he’s going back to Mom & Dad.

His sex is undetermined because he’s been slow in development – feathers and strength are at age 14 days, though actual age is 19 days – but he had no deformities and has a good chance of catching up.

He did have feather parasites so he was treated with medication to remove them & that problem is virtually gone.

If you’ve been watching on camera, you can see he’s back at the nest with new “bling” on his legs.

Happy Banding Day!


(photo by Kate St. John)

52 responses so far

May 29 2015

Stay Tuned

Pitt peregrine chick at Cathedral of Learning banding (photo by Kate St. John)

May 2010 Peregrine chick at Banding Day event

Please excuse this blue-tinted old photo from May 2010 but I’m using it as a reminder that today is Banding Day(*) in Pittsburgh.

Peregrine falcon chicks will be banded at two locations:

  • At the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning where there’s one famous nestling, and
  • At the Neville Island I-79 Bridge where there are two chicks.

Stay tuned here at Outside My Window for news.

NOTE! I will be at peregrine banding & research events all day. I will post news today but may not have time to answer your questions until tomorrow.


(photo from May 2010 by Kate St. John)

(*)  For my British readers (Hello, Derby watchers!), banding is the same as ringing … but you know that.  :)

7 responses so far

May 28 2015

Props And Tarsi

Yesterday Dorothy and E2’s chick stayed upright all day long and began to walk around.

In the video above he tips backward but does not fall, perhaps because his tail feathers (called rectrices) grew long enough to act as a prop. One day earlier he used the wall as a prop and was mostly successful. During his week of toppling over (5/19 to 5/26/2015) he needed a prop but hadn’t found one.  Toppling is not normal.

Yesterday he walked and explored a bit.  In the short video below he walks on his tarsi (plural of tarsus, the leg section from toes to heel).  Peregrine chicks normally walk on their tarsi at first, then stand up on their toes.

Adult birds walk on their toes with their heels in the air.  Their legs look to us as if their knees are bent backward but the “knees” are actually their heels and the tarsi are the lower section of their legs.  We humans have tarsi, too — the many bones in our feet.  We walk on our tarsi all our lives.

It is very hard to tell whether the chick’s improvement is a leap forward or merely a compensation that masks his underlying weakness.

Meanwhile, he made KDKA news last night.  Click here to watch.

The chick will be examined thoroughly tomorrow, Banding Day.  Watch this blog for updates.


(videos captured from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh, streamed from

42 responses so far

May 27 2015

Up And Down And Up Again

Dorothy presents food to the upright chick as E2 exits the nest area (photo from the National Avairy snapshot camera)

Dorothy presents food as E2 exits the nest area (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

News of peregrine falcon activity at the Cathedral of Learning, 26 May 2015:

The chick was up, the chick was down, the chick came up again.  He is an active “Special Needs” nestling.

Don’t worry if you hear him ‘crying.’  All peregrine chicks cry or whine when they are hungry.  This is not a sign of distress, it’s a call of hunger.  Watch what Dorothy and E2 do when the chick cries.  They bring him food.  After he eats he stops crying and falls asleep with a full crop as shown below.

He's not dead, he's resting.  He just ate & is sleeping as he digests the lump of food in his crop (neck).  (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

He’s not dead, he’s resting. The chick just ate & is sleeping as he digests the lump of food in his crop (neck). (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Peregrine parents use food as a teaching tool.  For instance, they teach their youngsters to hunt by holding food just out of reach in the air so the youngsters will fly up to grab it.  You might see Dorothy or E2 holding food just out of reach when the chick is on his back.  They are working with him.

We can see on camera that the chick’s legs are wobbly (see end of video).  Yesterday he compensated by using the wall for support.  Grown up peregrine falcons roost standing up with their faces to the cliff wall. The chick showed good progress by roosting in the position shown below.

Chick is in the normal roosting position for young birds his age (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Chick is in the normal roosting position (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)


Dorothy and E2 conferred on the chick’s condition.  They’re adapting to the situation and giving him extra special care, feeding him on his back and even helping him get up. I have never seen peregrines do that! I’m learning something new and gaining even more respect for Dorothy and E2 because we can see them on camera.

E2 examines the chick. He and Dorothy confer (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy and E2 examine the chick, 26 May 2015 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Some aspects of the chick’s condition are visible on camera but we cannot diagnose from a distance.  The chick will be given a thorough health check on Banding Day this Friday.

NOTE! that the banding event is not open to the public.  I will be there and post an update as soon as possible afterward.  Stay tuned at this link — Outside My Window — for the latest updates.


(photos from the National Aviary camera at University of Pittsburgh)

35 responses so far

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