A New Nest in Pennsylvania

There's great news about peregrines coming from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania this week. 

Meredith Lombard reported on PABIRDS that for the first time in 60 years peregrine falcons have nested successfully in Lancaster County.  This raises the number of nests in Pennsylvania to 22, the highest number we've had since the days before DDT.

Like me in Pittsburgh, Meredith monitors the peregrine falcons in York and Lancaster Counties.  After months of checking potential nest sites and many disappointments she thought the season would end -- again -- without any nestlings.  Then she noticed the pair at the Route 462 bridge mating in mid-May. 

Pictured here is the male of this pair.  He hatched in 2004 at Southmarsh Island WMA in Maryland and was hacked from Harper's Ferry National Park by Craig Koppie.  The female hatched on a building in Virginia and was hacked from a cliff.  They've now claimed the arched bridge that crosses the wide and shallow Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville. 

Apparently their April nest failed but the May nest didn't.  By late June Meredith saw them delivering prey to the bridge and in early July she heard the unmistakable sound of begging peregrine nestlings.  (Remember that sound from the webcams?)

On July 13, Art McMorris and Jeff Musser visited the bridge and banded two chicks -- one male (white tape on USFW band) and one female (blue tape).  At that time they were about 24 days old so they're expected to fledge in early August.  We wish them a safe flight.

Thank you, Meredith, for your dedication to these birds.

See Meredith's pictures of York, Lancaster and Susquehanna bridge peregrines here

(photo by Meredith Lombard)

21 thoughts on “A New Nest in Pennsylvania

  1. Remember that sound from the webcams?

    I still hear begging juveniles almost daily, from St Paul’s across the street! 😉 Great to hear that the Lancaster County peregrines nested successfully.

  2. It is great that there is another successful peregrine nest in PA! I hope for safe fledging.

    A big thank you to Kate for the well-written story and thanks to Meredith for the info and pic!

  3. WOW!! I guess this couple is lucky to have 2 babies after a failed nest. What does that mean failed nest? Or, should I ask what causes a nest to fail?

  4. A “failed nest” can mean, as in this case, a nest in which the eggs never hatched. It is also used broadly to mean a nest that never fledged any young.

  5. Thanks for the beautiful photos & wonderful news! What a great testament to the dedication of those committed to the comeback of this stunning raptor.

  6. Thanks for the information about hacking, Kate. It is interesting to note the different philosophy that Virginia has regarding human intervention. For instance, the notation that fledglings from bridge locations are more at risk for failure because of the lack of updrafts. Is this a problem at Pittsburgh bridge nest sites? Also, visiting the Richmond Falcon Cam link, it is interesting to note that the chicks are “penned” and fledge-date is pre-determined!

  7. Virginia bridges are very close to the ocean and have huge wind problems. The fledglings literally get blown off the bridge into the water. After so many seasons of losing ALL the chicks at the bridge nests Virginia took a more interventionist approach.
    I don’t know why the chicks are penned at Richmond. Will try to find out.

  8. Further investigation indicates that they pen the chicks in Richmond so they can carefully watch them when they fledge. The building they are on is not very tall and they have had much fledging trouble/death in past years.

    I believe this is the second year they had a penned release with watchers positioned everywhere on the ground with walkie-talkies.

    Fortunately we don’t need to do that here. Ours fledge successfully at first. Our problems pop up weeks later when the “kids” get cocky and it is too late in their lives to “manage” them.

  9. These are all such interesting & intelligent questions to learn from. Thanks so much for the info & pictures. Makes such a bright spot in my days presently.

  10. Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries:
    What a fascinating website! They also use Google-translate so you can read in any language you feel more comfortable in! You can choose anything from Armenian to Yiddish! (That actually turned out to be Hebrew–not that I could read it, but I recognized the letter-formation.) Maybe I could practice French?


  11. More questions…. while I’m glad that the juveniles are being saved, what does this do to the parents? First they lose the babies to high winds, now to humans.
    Also, I assume the nest sites on the bridges were just chosen by the falcons and were not man-made… so after so many unsuccesful seasons (when the fledglings got blown away), wouldn’t the falcons give up that site and look for something more suitable?

  12. Anne Marie, in the early days when peregrines were extinct East of the Mississippi people understandably used as many management techniques as possible to make sure the re-introduced young survived.

    In PA and Ohio we know there are plenty of unattached adults floating out there just waiting to take over a nest site if the current owner shows any weakness. (Witness Tasha/Dori at Gulf and the 3 different females in 7 days in Columbus).

    Though we don’t have as many nests as we used to and they aren’t yet in the natural areas like they should be I like the PA Game Commission’s approach which lets the birds fend for themselves but intervenes if they are stuck on the ground at first fledge or become injured.

    In my opinion – !just my opinion! – penning the young so they don’t fledge until you want them to is over-management. However, I really don’t know the history nor the many reasons for doing it in Richmond, VA.

    Meanwhile, here is a good article on the hacking program in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains, right from the source:

  13. I have to say I’m still confused what “penning the young” really means. Is it they’re holding them in their pen with locked doors so they won’t escape and get injured? How do the parents feed them then? Or humans feed them like they do in the “hack” case?

    It’s been frustrating to watch all the inner-species deaths due to hot-nest capturing attempts (i.e. Columbus, Wilmington or Tasha examples); one would think with so relatively few PFs out there there would be plenty prime nest real estate to share, but that’s what makes their survival so delicate.

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