Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

Jan 30 2014

Pitt Peregrine Highlights, 2013

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy, E2 and 4-day-old Silver Boy, 28 April 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

While we wait for the cold weather to end, here’s a slideshow of last year’s peregrine highlights at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

For fans of Dorothy and E2, 2013 began with promise but ended in disappointment.  Click on the photo above to see last year’s ups and downs.

  • The peregrines began nest defense and courtship right on schedule.
  • Dorothy laid her first egg on March 13, then paused a bit longer than usual before completing her clutch of 5.
  • She kept the eggs warm and dry, even when it snowed all night on March 24-25.
  • Two eggs hatched on April 25.  The remaining three eggs never hatched.
  • Soon it was evident only one of the chicks was eating.  The other had spasms so strong that it twitched out from under Dorothy’s warmth and away from the nest.
  • The second chick died beyond the scrape. Being the good mother that she is, Dorothy tucked it under her to brood.   On April 29 when her back was turned E2 removed the dead chick’s body.
  • The remaining chick received loads of attention from two very experienced parents and lots of quality time alone with Dorothy.  Often it seemed we could understand what she was telling him by her look.  Above, Dorothy and E2 confer as the chick begs for food.
  • On Banding Day, May 17, Dorothy strafed the banding crew who successfully retrieved and banded her healthy male chick.  We nicknamed him Silver Boy.  (The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not name peregrine chicks but Pittsburgh peregrine watchers assign nicknames based on the colored tape placed on the silver USFW bands.  Silver Boy’s USFW band remained silver.  He had no colored tape because he had no siblings.)
  • Silver Boy ate, grew, exercised and explored.  He fledged on June 3 to the 25th floor ledge where he was rewarded with food, of course.
  • Sadly, on the morning of June 14 Silver Boy was found dead on Forbes Avenue, apparently hit by a car.
  • His parents resumed courtship the next day but stopped soon after. It was too late in the season to start another clutch.
  • Both parents stay at Pitt year round.  As always, Dorothy is the most photogenic.

Now that we’ve had a warmup, let the season begin!


(photo above from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh.  Thanks to Peter Bell, Mike Faix and Kim Getz for contributing photos in the slideshow.)

p.s. This slideshow is also linked on the Peregrine FAQs page.

2 responses so far

Jan 21 2014

Falcon Identification Challenge

Last Friday Ginataras Baltusis filmed an immature peregrine falcon preening in New York City.   I found the video interesting because the bird is banded and has a pale face and head with long white eyebrow stripes.

The pale head made me think of the tundra subspecies from the arctic.  The bands made me think, “This bird hatched near people, not in the arctic.”  The head stripes are a puzzle.

Is this a tundra peregrine?  (Compare to this tundra peregrine in Pittsburgh in 2008.)   Is it a peregrine hybrid, perhaps a falconer’s escaped bird?  Or have I just been fooled by a bird with unusual head feathers?

What do you think?


(video by Ginataras Baltusis)


4 responses so far

Jan 15 2014

Getting Ready For Spring

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine, Mo, landed briefly on the corner, Canton, OH (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Despite winter’s cold and gloom our resident peregrines are getting ready for spring.   This recent photo of Mo in Canton, Ohio by Chad+Chris Saladin is a good example of what our birds are up to.  Their first order of business is “Be seen!”

Peregrines’ long breeding cycle — four to five months from egg to independence — and the timing of prey abundance forces them to start getting ready during the winter.  If they don’t begin now their young won’t survive.  Procrastinators are eliminated from the gene pool.

As with most birds, their hormones are triggered by the length of daylight.  Today the sun will be up in Pittsburgh an additional 17 minutes since the winter solstice, more than enough to get the juices flowing.  Peregrines are already renewing their territorial boundaries and beginning courtship.  Here’s what they’re up to in western Pennsylvania:

  • At the University of Pittsburgh, Dorothy and E2 have been quite visible at the Cathedral of Learning.  Since the New Year I’ve seen both of them perched high on the building or circling in territorial “flappy flight” displays.  Often they wait and watch.  Occasionally E2 tries to entice Dorothy to come bow at the nest, flying around her then landing at the nest, hoping she’ll join him.  Here he is, just arrived, watching for her.  He isn’t always successful at this but it’s early days yet.

E2 says, Hey, Dorothy! 14 Jan 2014 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at University of Pittsburgh)

  • The Downtown peregrines are more visible too, near Point Park University.  After months of their absence Amanda McGuire was startled when, not paying attention, she went out on her patio and looked up to see a peregrine perched on her balcony railing!  She froze in place and the bird gazed at her for a minute or two as if to say “You are nothing to me,” then flew away.  Wow!
  • The Tarentum Bridge peregrines are “being seen.”  Sean Dicer photographed one perched on the bridge on January 5.
  • At Monaca, Ed Richards reported a peregrine perched on the big railroad bridge over the Ohio River on January 4.  This inaccessible location is probably where they nested last year.
  • BREAKING NEWS, January 16:  Jim Hausman saw a peregrine falcon perched at the Green Tree water tower.  (In my original post I’d written that no one had seen any peregrines there since October.)
  • At the Westinghouse Bridge, Candy saw a peregrine on one of the lightposts on January 3 (see the Comments).
  • There are no reports yet from two other bridges — McKees Rocks and Neville Island I-79 — but I can imagine it’s because we haven’t been out there during the winter.

Start watching now for peregrine activity.  They don’t have much time.  They’ll lay their first eggs in mid to late March — only 8-10 weeks from now.

The excitement is building!


(photo of Mo coming in for a landing in Canton, Ohio, late December 2013 by Chad+Chris Saladin.  Photo of E2 at the nestbox via the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh)

p.s.  We’re getting ready, too.  Watch for falconcam improvements this month at the Cathedral of Learning.  The National Aviary bought an HD (high-definition) webcam!  I’ll keep you posted.

5 responses so far

Dec 29 2013

Take Me To The River

Peregrine bathing in the Monongahela River (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

Yesterday, while the Christmas Bird Counters were absent from Duck Hollow, Michelle Kienholz stopped by to take a run on the Duck Hollow Trail.  Surprise!  From the parking lot she saw a peregrine falcon taking a bath in the Monongahela River.  Very cool!

A long time passed — at least 10 minutes — and the peregrine continued to stand in the water.  Michelle noticed a fisherman in waders standing further out than the peregrine but the falcon didn’t leave.  Why was it staying there so long?  Was something wrong?  She emailed me with a snapshot.

Peregrine bathing in the Mon River, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

Peregrine bathing in the Mon River, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

I was at home logging the 6,000 crows I counted over my house at dawn when I received her message so I drove down to Duck Hollow to take a look.  No peregrine in sight but there was a merlin in the river near the fisherman!

The fisherman left the water, the merlin flew to a dead snag overlooking the river, and my phone beeped with another message from Michelle saying the peregrine had flown upriver after 20 minutes in the water.

I looked at the snag again.  The merlin was gone, a kestrel was standing in its place, and the merlin was in the river taking a bath.  Michelle came back from the trail and I showed her the other two birds.

Here’s the merlin bathing. Quite a different bird!

Merlin bathing in the Mon River, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

And then the merlin left…

Wet merlin leaving the river, 28 Dec 2013 (photo by Michelle Kienholz)


I wish I’d been there earlier.  In Pittsburgh there are only three possible falcons — American kestrel, merlin and peregrine falcon — and Michelle saw all three within half an hour.  A Falcon Sweep!   Her sightings were added to the Pittsburgh Christmas Bird Count.


p.s. One of Michelle’s photos showed the peregrines’ bands. The USFW band is pinkish and shows ’160′ or ’760′ (right leg, left side of photo). The color band (left leg, right side of photo) is black/green and the black seems to end in ’5′. Who might this be?

Peregrine bathing in the Mon River at Duck Hollow (photo by Michelle Kienholz)

Dorothy, the matriarch at the University of Pittsburgh nest, has a pinkish USFW band with the number 1807-77607. Her black/green band is 5/*A.   Hmmmmm!

(photos by Michelle Kienholz)

11 responses so far

Dec 15 2013

Wish I’d Been There!

Peregrine falcon attacking snowy owl at Gull Point, Erie, PA (photo by Steve Gosser)

I’ve been hoping to witness a clash between peregrines and snowy owls but so far I’ve never been in the right place at the right time.  Others have been luckier:

  • On November 29 Steve Gosser captured this photo of a peregrine attacking a snowy owl at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Shawn Collins saw them, too.
  • On December 2, Tom Johnson captured a video(!) and stills of a peregrine attacking a snowy owl at Stone Harbor Point, New Jersey.  Click here to see it on 10,000 Birds.
  • During the snowy owl invasion two years ago, Rick Remington captured close-ups of a resident peregrine falcon strafing a snowy at Chicago’s Montrose Harbor in late January 2012.  The snowy defended itself by doing somersaults to present its talons to the peregrine!
  • Speaking of talons, take a peek at this photo by John Mattera of a peregrine and snowy at Jones Beach, Long Island during a fight in December 2009.  Click here for the story and photos from New York DEC’s newsletter.

Peregrines are so cool.

Wish I’d been there!


(photo by Steve Gosser)

One response so far

Dec 02 2013

The Battle Is On

Peregrine falcon at Presque Isle State Park, 29 Nov 2013 (photo by Shawn Collins)

Ever since the first snowy owl showed up at Presque Isle State Park on November 23 Erie’s resident pair of peregrine falcons has been on the warpath.  Peregrines hate owls and snowies are no exception.  How dare an owl invade their territory!

On November 26 a second snowy arrived and perched near the first at Gull Point.  On November 30, a third and darker owl came to Beach 6.  The snowies like the banquet at the lake.  They’re eating visiting waterfowl.

Snowy owl on the breakwater at Presque Isle State Park,29 Nov 2013 (photo by Shawn Collins)

Their arrival has kept the peregrines quite busy. Many observers have seen the peregrines attacking the owls.

One owl is annoying, two are worth shouting about.  On Friday while Shawn Collins was on his way to Gull Point he heard a peregrine whining and warning at Beach 10.  The peregrine was so upset and distracted that it remained perched and whining on a telephone pole while Shawn snapped several pictures.

Angry and swift, the peregrines teamed up to convince the owls to leave.  Would it work?

The owls are bigger and know about large, powerful falcons.  They come from the land of the gyrfalcon.

But the peregrines are persistent.

Who will win?

Snowyowl atPresque Isle State Park, 29 Nov 2013 (photo by Shawn Collins)


(photos by Shawn Collins)

10 responses so far

Nov 26 2013

Look Who Came To Visit!

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine at the Gulf Tower nest, 16 Nov 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

At this time of year I often forget to retrieve snapshots from the peregrine falconcams because so little is going on.  When I finally did so this month I found a surprise at the Gulf Tower.

For two years the Downtown peregrines have shunned the Gulf Tower nest.  In the early days Louie visited alone but Dori stayed away. The nest had been so inactive that I forgot the camera was still running.

But look who came to visit on November 16!


The visitor puttered at the nest for about two minutes — a fairly long time for a peregrine in November.  Here are two more snapshots.

Peregrine visiting the Gulf Tower nest, 16 Nov  2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)


Peregrines at the Gulf Tower nest, 16 Nov 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Assuming this is one of the resident Downtown peregrines, which bird is it?  Dori or Louie?  Here are links to other Gulf nest snapshots for comparison:

What do you think?  Is this Dori?


(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower, Pittsburgh)

9 responses so far

Nov 22 2013

The Key To A Long Life

Published by under Peregrines,Tenth Page

Peregrine falcon, Dorothy (photo by Peter Bell)

Though juvenile mortality is high, birds are amazingly long-lived if they survive to adulthood. What’s the key to their longevity?

In 2011 scientists at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC crunched 27 years of data on more than 1,200 birds to examine mate selection, fertility and aging.  They used the rich data set on blue tits, a bird similar to our chickadees, studied on the island of Corsica since the late 1970′s.  Aging was easiest to see among female blue tits because their fertility dropped if they lived long enough.  They laid fewer eggs and laid them later in the season than females in their prime.

Interestingly the study found that females remained in their prime longer if they had good mates.  Their fertility did not wane so soon, they aged more slowly.  This was especially true for the ladies whose mates became fathers at an early age.

The good males were better helpers during the nesting season.  They shared parenting duties and were solicitous for the females’ well-being.  They brought food to their ladies and eased the burden of nest building, incubation and child rearing.  The team’s scientists conjectured that the males who became fathers at an early age were not only more experienced at this but were also healthier.

The good mate scenario sounds a lot like Dorothy and E2′s relationship.  Every nesting season we see E2 on camera bringing food to Dorothy and the kids, begging to take over incubation duties, and sometimes refusing to give them up.  Even in the off season, those of us who watch this peregrine pair see E2 bring food to Dorothy throughout the year.  What a guy!

The key to a long life is a good mate.

Dorothy says, “Thank you, E2.”


(photo of Dorothy by Peter Bell. Today’s Tenth Page is inspired by page 510 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.)

p.s.  A study published this year showed this principle is true for humans, too.  Happily married couples live longer, healthier lives than their single counterparts.  Thank you to my husband on our anniversary.

8 responses so far

Nov 15 2013

The Crows Moved

Since late October, Pittsburgh’s winter crow flock has been big and brash in Oakland.  At dusk they flood the sky, gathering on roofs and treetops to choose a place to sleep.  Last week they roosted in the trees around Pitt’s Student Union and the Cathedral of Learning.  This got them into big trouble!

Every night pedestrians dodged the “rain” from trees filled with crows and every morning the sidewalks were a slippery crow-poop mess.  The crows had to go.  But how to convince them?

Last weekend Pitt positioned a loudspeaker on the low roof of the Student Union and played very loud bird distress calls over and over all night. They ran it for five nights, Friday through Tuesday, Nov 8-12.

Most people didn’t know it was a recording.  In the dark it sounded like birds fighting and dying:  a robin in awful distress, an unidentified bird screaming and a peregrine kakking.

Late Saturday night Jason Carson recorded the video above and tweeted me with the question: “What is this? Are the peregrines fighting?”

Initially I was fooled and thought it was real, though it didn’t make sense.  Any bird suffering that much would have died after the first assault and the noise would not repeat.  Then Pat Szczepanski told me she heard it Sunday night at 6pm and it dawned on me.  Duh! It’s a recording.

Usually crows are not impressed by bird distress recordings.  They are way too smart to be fooled for long.  Sometimes the only thing that will move them are bird-scare firecrackers like the ones they use at Penn State (click here for videos of Penn State’s “crow wars”).

Why were a few nights of noise enough to move Pittsburgh’s crows away from the Cathedral of Learning?  I have a theory and I think it’s pretty good.

Crows are afraid of peregrines but they’re more afraid of great horned owls.  They know Dorothy and E2 live at the Cathedral of Learning and they know peregrines hate great horned owls so they probably figured “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” and they chose to roost at Pitt.

But last weekend there was an awful ruckus and the sound of peregrines defending their home.  “Oh my gosh!” thought the crows, “The owl must be here!  I hear the peregrines attacking it!”

In the dark Dorothy and E2 swooped low to investigate the noise.   “Oh no!” said the crows, “The peregrines are here!  Fly away!”

The crows didn’t move far but they moved far enough.  By Monday evening they were avoiding the trees on campus and roosting instead on the roof of Soldiers and Sailors Hall.   Just far enough to avoid the owl and the peregrines.  Just far enough that Pitt is happy.  Just far enough that the noise has ceased and Dorothy and E2 can get a good night’s sleep.

Without real live peregrines at Pitt, the crows would not have been fooled.


(video from Jason Carson on YouTube)

10 responses so far

Oct 20 2013

Courtship In October

Published by under Peregrines

Dorothy and E2 at the nest, 7 Oct 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Dorothy and E2 keep up their pair bond in the “off” season by bowing at the nest.  So far this month they’ve visited it every three or four days.

Here’s a selection of the best snapshots.  At this time of year their visits are very quick so there’s usually only one snapshot per episode.

Dorothy and E2 at the nest, 4 Oct 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

On October 4 E2 bows very low with his back to the camera.


Dorothy and E2 at the nest, 7 Oct 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
They’re a blur on October 7.


Dorothy and E2 at the nest, 10 Oct 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
They pause in perfect bowing position on October 10.


Dorothy and E2 bow at the nest, 18 Oct 2013 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

“Come bow with me,” says E2 last Friday, October 18.


Serious courtship is months away.  Meanwhile they stay close to home.

(images from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

One response so far

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