Mar 24 2014


Published by at 6:20 am under Peregrines

Dorothy and her frozen egg, 24 Mar 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

It's very cold this morning:  14 degrees at the airport, 21 degrees in my city backyard.  Assuming the Cathedral of Learning is just as warm as my backyard (1.5 miles away), the temperature at the nest has been below freezing since 8:00pm last night.

For whatever reason, Dorothy stopped sheltering her egg around 9:30pm.

Peregrine falcons don't begin incubation until they've laid their next to last egg in the clutch.  However, they do shelter the eggs to keep them from freezing.  In her younger years Dorothy would have been on top of the egg in weather like this, not merely standing over it, and it would look like she's incubating.  But she's not.

The egg is certainly frozen and will never hatch. CORRECTION!  I have since learned that it might hatch. (It was not incubated and abandoned to the cold weather so it might be viable.)

This spring Dorothy is 15 years old, retirement age for wild peregrines.  She has a reason for acting this way.  I don't know what it is.


(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh

28 responses so far

28 Responses to “Frozen”

  1. carol kyrimeson 24 Mar 2014 at 6:29 am

    So sad.

  2. carol kyrimeson 24 Mar 2014 at 6:32 am

    Could her hormone levels be decreased and altering her behavior.

  3. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 7:02 am

    Carol, their hormones do change as they age… Likely to be a factor.

  4. Donnaon 24 Mar 2014 at 6:35 am

    This is so sad, guess Dorothy knows what she is doing! Think she will lay another?

  5. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 6:44 am

    Donna, I don’t know what she will do. In her younger years she would have laid a second egg by now.

  6. Peteron 24 Mar 2014 at 7:49 am

    As 72 hours passed at 9:37 last night I was wondering what she was up to. Especially since she was pretty consistently shorter. The temperature had completely slipped my mind.

    Just waiting for the next chapter in the book Dorothy’s writing for us now.

  7. John Englishon 24 Mar 2014 at 10:08 am

    She settled back on about 11:30 last night. I guess that was too late for the egg. It didn’t really seem to be under the brood patch.

  8. Mary Ann Pikeon 24 Mar 2014 at 10:46 am

    If Dorothy doesn’t have any viable eggs this year, would E2 leave her, or would their pairing only end if she died of natural causes or was deposed by a younger female?

    I wonder if birds have senility issues. I have an old cat who doesn’t groom herself hardly at all any more, often doesn’t cover what she deposits in the litter box, and has taken to sleeping in my lap, which she never used to do. The vet said that she might be having some senility issues. If that happens to birds, perhaps they would forget to shelter the egg when it is cold, and perhaps they might even lay an egg somewhere outside of the nest box. Of course we’ll never know.

  9. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Mary Ann & Barb,
    Lowered viability & number of eggs is a sign of lowered fertility and “less fitness.” E2 is not going to leave his territory but a new female will test to see if she can win it.
    Senility: I have no idea whether birds get senile but wild birds would not get very far down that trajectory because senility prevents them from supporting themselves.

  10. Pa Galon 24 Mar 2014 at 11:18 am

    Oh no, this is not what I was hoping to see when checking your blog. Dear Dorothy, I pray that you are OK….

  11. Allyon 24 Mar 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Fingers crossed that the egg hatches. When will be the expected hatch date?

  12. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Ally, I can’t predict a hatch date. She is not incubating yet.

  13. Suzanneon 24 Mar 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I saw the adult last night at the nest but couldn’t figure out if it was Dorothy or her mate. Seems harder at night! I wondered if Dorothy had either abandoned the nest (for many reasons already speculated upon here) or if she had been hurt. Or worse. Are you all certain that it was Dorothy at 11:30? Thank you!

  14. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Suzanne, yes it was certainly Dorothy at the nest last night

  15. Barbon 24 Mar 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Will she stop laying eggs altogether eventually? If so, will she and E2 still be a pair?

  16. Carolynon 24 Mar 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Kate, can you clarify the reasoning for the correction to the earlier conjecture that the egg would definitely NOT hatch? Because she did protect it, if only intermittently? There seems to be a great deal of confusion, distress, and suspense here…both between Dorothy and E2, as well as all of us anxious, nail-biting observers. Do the birds seem more stressed than usual, in your opinion? E2 seems especially vocal…

  17. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Carolyn, I corrected my statement about the egg hatching because I talked to Art McMorris, Peregrine Coordinator for PA, and Bob Mulvihill, Ornithologist at the National Aviary. Both are bird scientists. From a scientific point of view birds’ eggs can survive freezing if they have not been incubated at all (and started to develop) prior to freezing — but this depends on how hard the freeze. Since we don’t know the temperature at the nest last night & we don’t know the fitness of the egg in question we can only speculate. So, yes, it might hatch.

    You asked, “Do the birds seem more stressed than usual, in your opinion? E2 seems especially vocal…”
    Both birds know that the present situation is unusual but I personally would not call it “stressed”. In earlier years, Dorothy laid an egg every other day after her first one. Vocal: E2 may be asking her what’s up and/or asking to mate with her — which is what would be going on at this point if this wasn’t an unusual year.

  18. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Mon Mar 24, 4:10-4:12pm: If you watch the archives you’ll see E2 on the egg and hear a high-pitched whining in the background. Dorothy is on the ledge above him, whining. (I see this using binoculars out my office window.) He gets up on the perch and scratches his head and looks at her. She keeps whining. Then he flies off the perch. With my binos I see him fly out & back & they mate. While that’s going on there are a lot of chirppy chippy noises with no one on camera. 😉

  19. Janet Campagnaon 24 Mar 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Seems from these comments that she seemed to give up on this egg around the time she failed to lay a second one. Coincidence?

  20. Suzanneon 24 Mar 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks! This will surely be an interesting year for this pair.

  21. Carolynon 24 Mar 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Thanks Kate…at least they seem to still be enjoying each others company! It is fascinating being able to watch the nesting season unfold, whatever the final outcome will be.

  22. Jon 24 Mar 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Reading the comments here and also a brief conversation that Kate had with another Dorothy and E2 fan via twitter regarding odd behavior, I thought I’d share something I saw on camera yesterday evening at some point (forget the time). I was watching Dorothy just standing around the nest box and at one point she went and stood in the top corner of the nest box as seen from the streaming can facing into the corner (Something I’ve noticed her doing a number of times this year) then she started walking backwards going diagonally across the nest box to the bottom corner. Maybe this was nothing, but the whole walking backwards part just struck me as odd. Also, as per Kate’s twitter convo, i have also noticed Dorothy looking a bit “puffy” and sometimes her feathers have seemed a bit ruffled.

  23. Kate St. Johnon 24 Mar 2014 at 9:47 pm

    J, that is certainly odd. Peregrines don’t walk forward very gracefully because they have long tails. It’s hard to imagine her walking backwards. … Maybe she was “going to the bathroom” as she does try to poot outside the nest box.

  24. Peteron 25 Mar 2014 at 12:10 am

    In regards to the walking backwards…I was watching then and going to relieve herself is exactly what she was up to – you could even hear it go on the camera.

  25. Chris Weberon 25 Mar 2014 at 11:11 am

    Good morning … so nice to see the sun warming up Dorothy’s egg. But unless my eyes are deceiving me, I think the egg has been cracked and damaged. Take a look and tell me what you see.
    Thanks for all you do,
    Bethel Park

  26. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2014 at 11:17 am

    Several of us have seen it. So far we think it’s poot but our archive expert is double checking.

  27. Christineon 25 Mar 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Did the egg move, or rather was it removed by Dorothy? I’m riveted to this blog and share with my 6th grade students!

  28. Kate St. Johnon 25 Mar 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Christine, the peregrines have moved the egg a little, back and forth. Dorothy is not incubating it. She probably lacks the hormones necessary to begin incubation.
    The egg is hard to see now because it has “poot” on it.