Jan 15 2014
Despite winter’s cold and gloom our resident peregrines are getting ready for spring. This recent photo of Mo in Canton, Ohio by Chad+Chris Saladin is a good example of what our birds are up to. Their first order of business is “Be seen!”
Peregrines’ long breeding cycle — four to five months from egg to independence — and the timing of prey abundance forces them to start getting ready during the winter. If they don’t begin now their young won’t survive. Procrastinators are eliminated from the gene pool.
As with most birds, their hormones are triggered by the length of daylight. Today the sun will be up in Pittsburgh an additional 17 minutes since the winter solstice, more than enough to get the juices flowing. Peregrines are already renewing their territorial boundaries and beginning courtship. Here’s what they’re up to in western Pennsylvania:
- At the University of Pittsburgh, Dorothy and E2 have been quite visible at the Cathedral of Learning. Since the New Year I’ve seen both of them perched high on the building or circling in territorial “flappy flight” displays. Often they wait and watch. Occasionally E2 tries to entice Dorothy to come bow at the nest, flying around her then landing at the nest, hoping she’ll join him. Here he is, just arrived, watching for her. He isn’t always successful at this but it’s early days yet.
- The Downtown peregrines are more visible too, near Point Park University. After months of their absence Amanda McGuire was startled when, not paying attention, she went out on her patio and looked up to see a peregrine perched on her balcony railing! She froze in place and the bird gazed at her for a minute or two as if to say “You are nothing to me,” then flew away. Wow!
- The Tarentum Bridge peregrines are “being seen.” Sean Dicer photographed one perched on the bridge on January 5.
- At Monaca, Ed Richards reported a peregrine perched on the big railroad bridge over the Ohio River on January 4. This inaccessible location is probably where they nested last year.
- BREAKING NEWS, January 16: Jim Hausman saw a peregrine falcon perched at the Green Tree water tower. (In my original post I’d written that no one had seen any peregrines there since October.)
- At the Westinghouse Bridge, Candy saw a peregrine on one of the lightposts on January 3 (see the Comments).
- There are no reports yet from two other bridges — McKees Rocks and Neville Island I-79 — but I can imagine it’s because we haven’t been out there during the winter.
Start watching now for peregrine activity. They don’t have much time. They’ll lay their first eggs in mid to late March — only 8-10 weeks from now.
The excitement is building!
(photo of Mo coming in for a landing in Canton, Ohio, late December 2013 by Chad+Chris Saladin. Photo of E2 at the nestbox via the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh)
p.s. We’re getting ready, too. Watch for falconcam improvements this month at the Cathedral of Learning. The National Aviary bought an HD (high-definition) webcam! I’ll keep you posted.