Monthly Archives: August 2008

A Visit Home

Based on our own observations and telemetry data from the PA Game Commission, I always thought the immature peregrines left town permanently by the end of July.

Not so with this one. He came back to visit the nest box at the University of Pittsburgh on August 4th.

Thanks to motion detection at the Aviary's webcam - which is turned on but not feeding the website - this youngster's one minute visit was captured in photos. I was able to read his bands in the bottom photo before I resized it for the blog.

He's 35/X, the remaining juvenile male. (His brother died on June 24.)

Perhaps he was hoping for an easy handout from his parents, but as far as we can tell they avoided him. I can imagine they said, "Don't come crying to us! It's about time you got a job."

p.s. on August 11:  This morning I saw a juvenile begging at the Cathedral of Learning.  The adult ate most of the prey and the juvenile got the leftovers.  Looks like this bird still hasn't left town.

What a mimic!

Yesterday I was walking to lunch when I heard an immature red-tailed hawk begging for food near Central Catholic High School.  At least that's what I thought I heard. 

I looked around for a large bird of prey, possibly one of the red-tails born at the high school this spring, when who should fly from the direction of the sound but a blue jay!  He landed in a tree near me and called again - a perfect imitation of an immature red-tail begging call.

I know blue jays can mimic but I never expected they could do it this well.  

I will try to remember this jay but he'll probably fool me again next week.


(photo by Chuck Tague)

A Pittsburgh peregrine nearly dies in Canada

Peregrines surprise me again.

One of the five chicks born at the Gulf Tower in 2006 nested at the Burlington Lift Bridge in Ontario this spring.  His band numbers are 3/K.

Shown here are some of his "baby" pictures from the Gulf Tower webcam.  Count the heads in the top picture, the tails in the bottom one.  He's somewhere in the crowd.

3/K and his mate raised four chicks to the fledging stage without incident this year.  Then observers noticed he wasn't as attentive as usual and soon discovered the reason why.  He was seen chasing a male peregrine intruder and he didn't come back for a while.

When he returned he was seriously injured.  The intruder really hammered his chest and everyone thought he'd surely die.  To see how he looked on June 27, about five days after the battle, click on the "baby" picture.

3/K's mate helped him recover.  She did all the hunting and brought food for the fledglings - and sometimes for him.  Within a week he was able to hunt again.  Amazing.

3/K has recovered well though it is still unclear whether the intruder male will ultimately win the site for next year.

To read the complete story of 3/K and his family, click here.  (Note that the Burlington Home Page scrolls and their blog scrolls within it.  There are two scroll bars.)

p.s.  For those of you following peregrine news, there is an update on the Virginia peregrines at the end of my August 1st post.

Talking Turkey

Wild Turkey baby (photo by Tim Vechter)
Wild Turkey chick (photo by Tim Vechter)

More baby pictures!

Tim Vechter sent me this photo of a wild turkey chick he found with mother and siblings in a field near Latrobe.

As you can see, this baby bird is well camouflaged.  Wild turkeys lay 10-14 eggs in a nest on the ground.  As soon as the chicks hatch they're ready to go.  Their mother calls and they walk off the nest and disappear in the tall grass.

The last time I saw wild turkey chicks I literally stumbled on them.  I was at Ohiopyle State Park when I saw the weeds move and a baby turkey darted across the trail.  Then another.  Mom called and they all ran back.  If I hadn't had my wits about me I would have stepped on one.

Fortunately I knew not to mess with baby turkeys.  They may look cute and defenseless but their mother is formidable, willing to march right up to danger and attack it.

Dad, on the other hand, has a hands-off attitude toward family life.  Turkeys are polygamous so he has a territory and up to five hens to maintain.  He spends breeding season cruising around making sure he's in charge.  To him, everything takes care of itself.  His wives raise the kids and the kids find food on their own.

What more could he want?

(photo by Tim Vechter)

Virginia peregrines move to the quiet side

This week my mother sent me news from Virginia about a pair of peregrine falcons who changed nest sites this spring.  What's even more remarkable is they raised a second family when they got there.

Pictured on the left is the Berkley Bridge in Norfolk, Virginia that carries Interstate 264 over the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River.  As you can see it's a very busy, noisy, dangerous bridge for wildlife. 

On the right is the Jordan Bridge over the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake.  It's an old two-lane drawbridge whose center section is raised for tall boat traffic.  (The road bed is raised in this picture.)

Both bridges have peregrine nest boxes on them but the box on the Jordan Bridge, two miles from the Berkley Bridge, had never been used in the 10 years since it was placed there. 

This spring, as in years past, a pair of peregrine falcons nested under the Berkley Bridge and raised two chicks.   Then in late May workers at the Jordan Bridge noticed peregrines harrassing them if they worked up high.  They called Shawn Padgett, a research biologist whose work with peregrines in Virginia has restored their population in the state.

Last week Padgett, with scientists and maintenance workers, paid a visit to the Jordan Bridge nest box and found a chick - and his parents were identified as the pair from the Berkley Bridge! 

It is highly unusual for peregrines to nest twice in one season.  They will lay a second clutch of eggs if the first set is lost, but their breeding cycle lasts so long that they don't lay eggs again if chicks or fledglings are lost.  There's just not enough time to raise another brood.   

This peregrine falcon pair is remarkable for two reasons:  moving two miles to a better site and nesting twice in one season.  

Just when we think we've got them figured out, the only thing that's "usual" about peregrines is that they usually surprise us.

Click here for the story in The Virginian-Pilot.

p.s.  Oh no!  No sooner had I reported on this happy event when the baby falcon fell from the nest and died.  The follow up story is here.