First Peregrine Egg at Pitt!

Female peregrine, Dorothy, with her first egg of 2009 at Univ of PittsburghDorothy sure surprised me!  All afternoon I thought she was spending a lot of time at her nest at the University of Pittsburgh, but it seemed way too early for her to lay an egg.  In her whole life, the earliest she ever laid was March 23.  I even commented on the previous blog that I thought she was just puttering. 

Surprise!  Here's her first egg of 2009.  I wish I'd been watching more closely and not gone with my own assumptions.  (Take a lesson, Kate!)

Click on her photo to watch her on the National Aviary's live webcam.

News update, March 21Dorothy's 2nd egg was first seen March 21 at dawn. 

News update, March 23Dorothy's 3rd egg was first seen March 23 at approximately 3:11pm.  If I have calculated correctly, she will lay her 4th egg in the early morning hours of March 25 (i.e. at night).


(photo from the National Aviary's falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

15 thoughts on “First Peregrine Egg at Pitt!

  1. Dorothy really surprised me today (I thought we were 5 days away from first egg) but I am certain she is not laying another egg immediately. In peregrines the physical process that produces an egg takes about 48 hours, though it can take more than 72 hours. At this point she is resting and sheltering the egg. She won’t start incubating until she lays her next-to-last egg.
    If she lays 4 eggs this year, as she typically does, expect egg#2 Friday evening, egg#3 Sunday evening (maybe into Monday’s wee hours of the morning) and last egg next Tues or maybe Wed. But don’t count on what I say. She might surprise me again. 😉

  2. Is that why she (or was it he?) was there late at night for the past couple of nights? I’m a student, so I do my thing with them keeping me company, late at night after my child is in bed. I’m not sure whether it was the female or male, but one of them would be there until midnight or beyond these past couple of days.

    I had never noticed them there that late the weeks prior. Is that normal behavior, for right before she lays an egg?

    I just love them. Will they lay three like the Gulf Tower couple? As a first timer, this is just so massively exciting!!!! My four year old hadn’t really realized that eggs came from a bird – until I showed him Dorothy’s egg. His eyes got big and you could almost see a neuron exploding…now he wants to know how long before a baby bird hatches.

    I don’t know. How long before a chick hatches?

  3. On checking the falconcam the past couple days, I’d noticed Dorothy seemd to be spending a lot of time just standing on the scrape seemingly doing nothing so I though she might be getting ready to lay an egg. Could the earlier date for her first egg mean she’s going to lay a larger clutch this year, perhaps 5 eggs instead of her usual 4?

  4. Is there a reason that there isn’t a page where both falcon-cams can be viewed simultaneously – perhaps side-by-side to eliminate scrolling? It would be a nice option, if possible. I don’t know who to make suggestions to, or if it would be feasible. Perhaps the current format would be good for those with lower-speed connections or older machines.

    Just a thought. 🙂

  5. Traci, sorry it took so long to answer your questions. Here’s some answers to…

    >Is it normal to stay at the nest at night just before she lays an egg?
    Yes. Birds lay eggs at any time of day or night, just as humans give birth at any hour of the day, so she stays at the nest to be sure she’s in the right place when it happens. The interesting part is that we couldn’t see it on camera until this year because Pitt changed the way they light the Cathedral of Learning (more light higher up) *and* this camera can operate in low light.

    >Will they lay three eggs like the Gulf Tower couple?
    Yes. In fact both female peregrines are likely to lay four eggs. Sometimes a fifth.

    >How long before a chick hatches?
    I put the answer on my new Peregrine FAQs page at … (That’s what took me so long!)

  6. J, here’s an answer to your question…
    >Could the earlier date for her first egg mean she’s going to lay a larger clutch this year, perhaps 5 eggs instead of her usual 4?
    Probably not. I don’t think there’s a link between start of egg laying and number of eggs – but I’m not expert.
    More than four eggs is unusual for Dorothy. She has always laid four. In the 2002-2005 seasons all four eggs hatched. For the past three years (2006, 2007, 2008) only 3 of her 4 eggs have hatched.

  7. Last night around midnight, I checked the webcam and Dorothy wasn’t at the nest and I panicked because I couldn’t see the egg. At first, I thought that white blotch (what I now know is poop) was the egg – broken. She came back but didn’t seem to be in a hurry to sit on where the egg ‘used’ to be.

    But it dawned on me – this must be why the egg is the color it is, rather than white? like the eagle’s eggs? It blended in with that gravel so much I could have sworn it was gone.

    I imagine in a natural cliff, the egg’s color would naturally blend in with the surrounding rock? Helping to protect it?

    Which leads to another question – on a natural cliff, I would imagine small animals like a raccoon or fox? would want to eat any egg they found. Do urban falcons really have any predators to worry about, in regard to the eggs? besides other falcons wanting their nest?

    Do urban falcon’s young stick to urban areas – or do they migrate to rural areas?

    Sorry for all these questions!! and thanks for answering the others!!

  8. Here are some answers to Traci’s questions:
    >Why is the egg red rather than white?
    I don’t know the answer to this but your theory that red makes it hard to see on the gravel is a good one.

    >Dangers on natural cliffs? Dangers in urban settings?
    At cliff sites, peregrines try to pick ledges that are so narrow and have such steep access that nothing can get to them on foot. Otherwise mammals, including humans, may take the eggs/chicks. If the site is only accessible from the air, their biggest danger is the great-horned owl, a bird so powerful he can kill an adult peregrine. There are no great-horned owls in the close vicinity of the Gulf Tower and Cathedral of Learning – and humans are kept away from the nests – so these are very safe sites.

    >Do urban falcon’s young stick to urban areas or do they migrate to rural areas?
    Young falcons born in urban settings travel all over the place and pass through many rural settings on their way. Satellite telemetry studies have shown they often go to the Atlantic, the Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay for their first years of life. It appears from banding data that when it comes time to nest at two years old, they often try to find a site like the one where they were born – an urban place. This has slowed the complete recovery of the peregrine in the eastern U.S. because they have not yet reclaimed the wild nesting sites. They are still listed as endangered in Pennsylvania because they have not gone back to most of the cliff sites … yet.

  9. Kate, with the laying pattern being so different than Dorothy’s past history, has this bird been positively identified as Dorothy ? E2 as well ?

  10. Kit, we were able to positively identify Dorothy as recently at March 10th.
    I check both her and E2’s leg band colors and overall look and behavior when I view her on the webcam. You can’t read the bands from the webcam but the colors help. In both cases, I believe it’s still Dorothy and E2 at Pitt.
    In 2008 Dorothy laid her first egg 6 days earlier than in 2007 and this year 5 days sooner than in 2008. We don’t know why but she certainly has a pattern going.

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