Mar 24 2012

Feats of Engineering

Published by at 7:30 am under Birds of Prey,Nesting & Courtship

If you look up at the corner of Fifth and Craig these days it’s hard not to notice a pair of red-tailed hawks swooping around St. Paul Cathedral.

After two weeks of testing other sites the local red-tails have chosen the west steeple of St. Paul for their 2012 nest.

They have a thing for buildings.  Though most red-tailed hawks nest in trees this pair has nested on buildings for years, most notably on the roofs at Central Catholic High School and Carnegie-Mellon Fine Arts.  Their “kids” are often rescued.  I recognize the female by her light brown head and her crazy love for bad nest sites.

Peter Bell couldn’t help but notice this when he stopped by with his camera on Thursday afternoon.  He was looking for peregrines and instead found the hawks yanking branches off nearby trees and carrying them to the steeple.  His photo below shows a hawk standing with sticks (red arrow) on a very narrow ledge — probably too narrow for a red-tail nest.


What do Pitt’s peregrines think of this development?  St. Paul is close to Pitt and a favorite hang out of their newly fledged young but so far Dorothy and E2 are unphased.  They know this red-tail pair is harmless.  They’ve  been neighbors for at least five years.

And this is the second time the red-tails have tried to nest at St. Paul.  Last year the experiment failed in a matter of days when strong winds blew the sticks off the steeple.

It will be interesting to see if they can pull off this feat of engineering.

(photo by Peter Bell)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Feats of Engineering”

  1. Peteron 24 Mar 2012 at 11:13 am

    I can’t wait to see what happens here. Yesterday morning she was looking pretty settled in on the nest. But then by evening she wasn’t hanging out there, and instead was on the cross over Central Catholic. Last night was the first time I didn’t manage to find both.

    When I went back yesteday morning, the flowering branches from the day before in the top photo had been incorporated into the nest (along with some more, there are 4 or 5 of these trees on the lawn on either side of of the church)…

  2. Mary S. Lewison 24 Mar 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Peter, please keep us posted on the adventures of these nonconformists. At least the peregrines are solid citizens!

  3. Anne Marieon 24 Mar 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Peter, thanks for more photos! I stopped by the church and thanks to your pictures I found the “nest”… looking pretty dry this afternoon around 3:30. During this time, I saw both hawks on the cross at Central Catholic, E2 was on COL near top, side opposite the nest, Dorothy was on the nest rail according to my smart phone… And a wedding party was having pictures taken at Mellon Institute…. a fun afternoon in Oakland!

  4. Dale Overallon 25 Mar 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Fabulous, so very inventive these hawks are, finding somewhere high up and out of the way!

  5. Kate St. Johnon 03 Apr 2012 at 10:39 pm

    April 3: The red-tailed hawks have given up on nesting on the steeple. I see them soaring but don’t know where they’ve chosen to nest instead.

  6. Kate St. Johnon 20 Jun 2012 at 8:49 am

    June 20: This pair of red-tails never nested. They hang out together at CMU.

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