Archive for the 'Peregrines' Category

May 22 2014

Peregrine News: Monaca and Westinghouse

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Monaca East Rochester Bridge, 2012(photo by PGC WCO Steve Leiendecker)

Monaca East Rochester Bridge:

With thunderstorms predicted yesterday (they never happened) the peregrine bandings at Tarentum and McKees Rocks Bridges were postponed.   Instead, the PA Game Commission’s Dan Brauning and Tom Keller went to the Ohio River in Beaver County to the Monaca East Rochester Bridge pictured above.

Last year this peregrine pair nested on the huge inaccessible Monaca-to-Beaver railroad bridge.  No one could tell if the nest was successful. This year they appeared to have come home so Dan and Tom investigated.  Dan wrote on May 21:

Tom Keller, I, and a team from PennDOT accessed the bridge this morning, and found 4 healthy chicks, 1 male and 3 females. The birds are about 18 days old today.

The adult female is an extraordinarily aggressive bird, hitting every one of us during our visit under the bridge.  She is the same female as was previously observed there — 75/Y, from Harrisburg.  If you know Tom, ask him about his new scar.  The male never came close.

Local observers that could be on the lookout for fledging in about 25 days would be appreciated.  The nest is far out over water, about 3 bays out from the pier on the Monaca side of the river.  The young should be able to get onto the catwalk, and therefore have good prospects for developing strongly before fledging.

Here’s a photo of this amazingly aggressive mother peregrine, 75/Y, taken on banding day in 2012 by Game Commission WCO Steve Leiendecker before she attacked him.  She never gives up.
Female peregrine at Monaca-East-Rochester Bridge, 2012 (photo by Steve Leiendecker)

If you’re in the Monaca area, start monitoring this bridge on June 11 for fledging activity (that’s four days ahead of “25 days”).


Westinghouse Bridge:

Westinghouse Bridge with PennDOT bucket truck about to look for peregrines' nest (photo by John English)
Tuesday afternoon, after the Gulf Tower banding, Dan and Tom went to the Westinghouse Bridge where a peregrine pair has been active for several years.

Using the bucket truck they looked for signs of a nest under the bridge while John English took photos from below.

PGC & PennDOT look for the peregrines' nest at the Westinghouse Bridge, 20 May 2014 (photo by John English)

The male was present but no female came out to “kak” and attack.

Male peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge (photo by John English)

Surprisingly, she was still incubating three eggs.  This is a late nest, perhaps a renesting after a territorial fight between males.  The female is still Hecla (68/H) from Ohio’s Ironton-Russleton Bridge 2009, resident since 2012.

If you’re in the vicinity of East Pittsburgh/North Versailles, please check under this bridge for peregrine activity.  There’s no way we’ll know if the nest is successful without some watchful eyes below.


(Monaca photos from May 2012 by WCO Steve Leiendecker, PA Game Commission. Westinghouse photos by John English)

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May 21 2014

Fledge Watch Coming Soon!

Published by under Peregrines

Gulf Tower peregrine chick on Banding Day, 20 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Today the three oldest Gulf Tower peregrine chicks are 31 days old.  Click on the photo above for a slideshow of yesterday’s banding event and you’ll see that a few of the five chicks are brown while at least one is quite downy.  They grow up fast!

I’ve tracked Pittsburgh peregrine fledge dates for many years and if my records are any indication the Gulf Tower chicks will fledge at 39 to 44 days.  That’s next Thursday, May 29 through Tuesday, June 3.   I could be wrong. They might be earlier or later…

Pittsburgh Falconut John English and I will organize a Gulf Tower Fledge Watch for next week — dates and times to be announced.  Here’s the view John had from Flag Plaza during yesterday’s banding.  (Notice Dori flying in to attack the banders!)  As at the Cathedral of Learning we’ll have a good long view to see all the action.

Dori flies in to attack the banders at Gulf Tower (view from Flag Plaza by John English)

Check back here or on Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page for Gulf Tower Fledge Watch dates and times.  Coming soon!

(photos by Kate St. John)

p.s. Click here for KDKA’s news of the Banding Event.

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May 20 2014

Two Males, One Female and Two …?

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Peregrine chick from the Gulf Tower nest, Banding Day, 20 May 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

Today’s peregrine banding at the Gulf Tower was a happy return to Pittsburgh’s first nest site. Peregrines nested there continuously from 1991 to 2011 but left it in 2012 and 2013 while workmen were installing the new lighting scheme on the roof.

After two years on a short building Dori and Louie came back to the 37th floor and so did Dan Brauning, PA Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Chief, and Tom Keller, PGC biologist.  Dori remembered the routine and was on guard as soon as Gulf Tower Maintenance popped open the access window.  She’s seen this before!

Dori waits to defend her chicks against the banders (photo by Kate St. John)

Dan and Tom carefully went out on the ledge.  Not only is it a sheer drop to the street but Dori and Louie attacked while the men very gently collected the chicks.

Dori strafes Tom Keller (photo by Kate St. John)

Indoors all five chicks passed their physical exam with flying colors but it was hard to sex them by weight. At 28-30 days old there was one obvious female, two males, and two others on the weight borderline between male and female designation. Dan gave them female bands and listed them as “unknown.” We’ll certainly find out what sex they are when they nest.

Three Gulf Tower chicks after banding (photo by Kate St. John)

The “kids” were back in the nest in no time, had a quick snack and fell asleep.  The excitement was so much for them that they slept for several hours … like babies.  :)


I’ll be putting my best photos into a slideshow soon.  Watch this space for more!


(photos by Kate St. John)

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May 19 2014

In For A Surprise

Published by under Peregrines

Gulf Tower peregrine chicks, 17 May 2014 (photo from the National Avairy falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Pittsburgh’s peregrine falcon chicks are in for a surprise this week (and next).  Dan Brauning and Tom Keller are coming to town.

Dan Brauning, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife Diversity Chief, and PGC wildlife biologist Tom Keller will visit six of Pittsburgh’s eight peregrine nest sites to band the chicks.  At each site they’ll walk and reach into dangerous high places, collect the chicks, weigh and band them and return them to the nest.

You’re welcome to observe from nearby. Bring binoculars and a camera and you might get a good snapshot of the adults’ bands.  At the bridge sites it’s the only way we find out who’s nesting there.

Tuesday, May 20:

  • Gulf Tower, 9:00am:  Watch the webcam just after 9:00am and you’ll see the “kids” cluster at the back of the nestbox while their parents scream, swoop and attack.  The banding won’t last long so tune in early or meet Pittsburgh Falconut John English before 9:00am at Flag Plaza, 1275 Bedford Avenue, where there’s an eye-level view of the Gulf Tower nest area.
  • Westinghouse Bridge, 12:30pm:  For the banders this will be a two step process: walk the catwalk to find the nest then use the snooper crane to access it.  Meet John English at noon at Wendy’s on Route 30 in North Versailles and he’ll guide you to a viewing spot below the bridge.  He’ll be wearing his peregrine ballcap and binoculars so you can’t miss him.

UPDATE!! Predicted thunderstorms have rescheduled the Wednesday and Thursday bandings. They will be on …

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Wednesday, May 21:

  • Monaca/East Rochester Bridge, 9:00am. We’re not sure if the peregrines chose this bridge or the large railroad bridge this spring. If they chose Monaca/East Rochester, it will become clear right after 9:00am when they raise a fuss. If so, viewing may be good from the community ballpark on the Monaca side.

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Thursday, May 22:

  • Tarentum Bridge, 8:30am.  Meet Rob Protz at the Tarentum public boat launch under the bridge.  If you’re coming from Route 28, take the First Avenue exit from the bridge ramp and it’ll put you right there.  Expect a small crowd with cameras and binoculars.  You can’t miss it.
  • McKees Rocks Bridge, after the Tarentum banding.  This one is hard to view because the bridge is huge and the banders aren’t sure where the nest is.  There are no viewing plans (that I know of) because we won’t know where to stand until the nest is found.

Wednesday, May 28:

  • Glenfield-Neville Island I-79 Bridge over the Ohio River, 9:00am.  Meet at the west end of the Fairfield Inn and Suites parking lot on Grand Avenue on Neville Island. This is the end of the bridge where the nest is located. See the comments below for more information from Anne Marie Bosnyak.

What about the nests at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning and the Green Tree water tower?

  • Cathedral of Learning:  As we know from watching the webcam, Dorothy and E2 have only one egg and they’ve never incubated.  Some time this week the Game Commission will collect the egg and test it for fertility, etc.  Don’t be surprised when it’s gone.
  • At the Green Tree water tower the pair is present but has never incubated so there’s no reason to visit the site this year.

If you take photos at one of the bandings, let me know and I’ll post them with news.  Leave a comment to alert me.


(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

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May 12 2014

Start Late, Finish Early

Gulf Tower chicks eat dinner, 6 May 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

With two Pittsburgh raptor nests on camera we’re able to watch the nest cycle differences between peregrine falcons and bald eagles.  A big difference is timing: Peregrines nest later but they finish earlier.  We’re about to see that unfold.

Back in March it felt like peregrine egg laying was “late” because the Hays bald eagles had been incubating for two and a half weeks before Dori laid her first egg at the Gulf Tower.  In fact Dori was early, even by her own standards.  We just didn’t realize how much earlier bald eagles begin.

On May 6 (above) the peregrine nestlings were still developmentally behind the eaglets.  They weren’t very mobile and were still covered in fluffy white down with no apparent flight or facial feathers. They looked like babies.

On that same day the eaglets had been mobile for two weeks, had already grown some head and body feathers and had started to grow flight feathers.  They already looked like eagles (below).  PixController’s YouTube video of the bald eagles’ growth in April shows how they got to this stage.

Pittsburgh Hays eaglets, 6 May 2014 (photo from the Pittsburgh Hays eaglecam by PixController)


Despite their late start the Gulf Tower peregrine chicks are about to surpass the Hays bald eagles.  The table below shows they’ll depart their nest two+ weeks before the eaglets.  The peregrine fledglings will fly right away (departing a cliff nest requires flight) while the eaglets will likely flutter from their tree to lower vegetation or the ground where they may wait 1-3 weeks before flying again.

Keep in mind that fledge dates are just estimates.  Young birds learn to fly on their own schedule.


____________ 1st Egg Hatch 1st Flight/Nest Departure
Gulf Peregrines 3/10 4/20-4/23 5/28-6/02 (5.5 wks)
Hays Eagles 2/20 3/28-4/02 6/16-6/28 (11-12 wks)



Start late, finish early.  Peregrines are faster than eagles in everything they do.


(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower and the Pittsburgh Hays eaglecam via PixController)


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May 09 2014

Awesome Peregrine Downhill Race

Published by under Peregrines

What happens when you pair a mountain bike racer with a peregrine falcon?

Red Bull sponsored this contest in which World Cup downhill champion Gee Atherton placed a lure on his helmet (and his back) and sped down a mountain with a falconer’s peregrine in pursuit.  Both the biker and the peregrine wore cameras.

Look at that bird go!  Wow!

(video from Earth Unplugged)


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May 05 2014

Mystery At Green Tree

Published by under Peregrines

Peregrine flying to the Green Tree water tower (photo by Kate St. John)

Peregrine nesting season is not going well at the Green Tree water tower.  As far as we can tell, the pair has no nest.

In March we were hopeful when observers saw the peregrines actively courting.  On April 1 they were still mating when Shannon Thompson confirmed that the female is unbanded and the male has bands.  This is exactly opposite to the pair from last year when the female’s bands identified her as Dorothy and E2’s daughter from 2011.  (I wonder where she went.)

Since then the situation has gone downhill  I stopped by on April 26 and witnessed some strange interactions.

When I arrived I heard a peregrine wailing and saw one perched on an upper crossbar facing the central shelves (click here to see the shelves).   Soon this peregrine flew up, circled out, and returned. It was carrying prey.

Upon its return I heard wailing and kakking.  A second, unbanded peregrine flew out from a shelf under the water dome.  This one had been in a fight and was missing some primaries and secondaries on its right wing.  It flew to a mid-level crossbar, landed clumsily, and hunched over with its wings drooping on either side of the perch.  It wailed and wailed. Green tree female peregrine, hunched and wailing, 26 Apr 2014 (photo by Kate St. John)

The peregrine carrying prey landed far to the right. This one continued to wail but eventually scuttled over — still hunched — to receive her meal. The male flew away.  She continued to hunch and wobble before she began to eat.  She was so clumsy that I was fooled into thinking she could not stand, but I was wrong.

I stayed for 40 minutes, watching her eat and preen.  When she was done, she kakked halfheartedly and flew poorly in the strong wind to a perch on the other side of the water tower.  When I visited yesterday she was alone.

I haven’t seen a nest exchange at Green Tree but I have seen some very cranky behavior.  What is it all about?  I don’t know.  It’s a mystery.


p.s. The first photo shows the male flying in with prey. For a better look, click on that photo to see its full size original.

(photos by Kate St. John)

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May 02 2014

Double-Teaming The Kids

Published by under Peregrines

Both peregrine parents feed five nestlings (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
It’s been rainy this week so the Gulf Tower peregrine nestlings have been pretty demanding when it’s time to eat.  On Tuesday afternoon their parents double-teamed them for the midday feeding: Dori on the left, Louie on the right.

At one point the adults were in synch, bowing to grab a morsel, rising to put it in a little beak.

Both parents feed five peregrine nestlings (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)


And then Louie ran out of food and they all looked at mom.  Louie left shortly after this snapshot.

Both parents feed five peregrine nestlings (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)


In the photo above the chicks are 6-9 days old and growing their second down.  By this Sunday the oldest will be 14 days, their second down will be dense and long, and they’ll be ready to walk out of the scrape.

Watch their antics on the Gulf Tower falconcam.


(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

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Apr 26 2014

Bluejay For Breakfast

Published by under Peregrines

Dori shelters her 5 chicks, 26 Apr 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

This morning when I looked at the Gulf Tower falconcam a color at the front of the nest caught my eye.

Notice the long blue feathers.  The peregrine nestlings had blue jay for breakfast.

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

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Apr 24 2014

Five Grandbabies

Published by under Peregrines

Dori and five chicks, 23 April 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Some of you feel bad for Dorothy at the Cathedral of Learning because she has only one non-viable egg this year but consider this:  She has five peregrine grandbabies a few miles away at the Gulf Tower.

Can you count five pink beaks in the photo above?  They’re all there.

Dori and Louie’s fifth and final egg hatched yesterday in the 10 o’clock hour.  Since Louie is Dorothy’s son (by her first mate, Erie) those five nestlings are Dorothy’s grandkids.  Louie himself hatched in 2002, the very first year Dorothy fledged young, and is the only one of his hatch year known to nest.*


The Gulfcam video archives are spotty so I’ve made a slideshow of yesterday’s highlights.  Click on the photo to watch…

  • 8:20am:  The chick inside the final egg has made great progress pecking around the “equator.”
  • 9:34am:  Off camera Louie calls as he arrives with food. Dori replies, steps away and returns to feed 4 chicks.  Chick #5 has not officially hatched yet.
  • 10:54am: Chick #5 is damp and propped in front when Louie comes to feed them.  He looks up at the building.  Perhaps he heard a sound inside.
  • 10:56am: After only two minutes Dori returns to take over the feeding.  Bye, Louie.
  • 13:40 (1:40pm to 1:57pm): Louie broods the nestlings for nearly 20 minutes.  Notice how he fills less of the camera frame than Dori does.
  • 16:16 (4:16pm):  Dori offers this prey item again because they didn’t finish it last time.  Eat up, kids!
  • 19:28 (7:28pm to 7:39pm):  Last feeding of the day. Sunset is only a half hour away.  After they’ve eaten Louie stops by to say goodnight, bending over the chicks to watch them sleep.

Click here to watch the “grandkids” on the Gulfcam.


(snapshots from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

* Yesterday Ann Hohn at Make-A-Wish read Louie’s bands, so both Dori and Louie are confirmed at the nest this year.

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