Archive for the 'Birds of Prey' Category

Apr 04 2016

Schenley Owl Nest Found

Great horned owl adult and one owlet, 2 Apr 2016, Anderson Bridge, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Great horned owl adult and one owlet, 2 Apr 2016, Anderson Bridge, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

(If you subscribe to PABIRDS you saw this news over the weekend.)

After the great horned owl fledgling was rescued in Schenley Park on Tuesday March 29 and an adult was seen nearby on Thursday morning, I made it my mission to find the nest.  At first I came up empty.  There were no big stick nests in any of the hillside trees.

Then, late Friday afternoon I took another look at the underside of the Anderson Bridge.

Faintly through the trees I saw two owlets walking on a girder!

On Saturday I brought my scope and discovered that the “branching” owlets and their mother were quite visible from the Junction Hollow Bike Trail below the bridge.  Here are two (lousy!) photographs I took through my scope.

Above, mother owl and one owlet pose on the girder.  Below, the second owlet is perched just below the nest. Later he flew from girder to girder and landed near his mother.  The blue box highlights him in the washed-out photo.

Second owlet at Anderson Bridge great horned owl nest, Schenley Park,2 Apr 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Second owlet at Anderson Bridge great horned owl nest, Schenley Park, 2 Apr 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Sunday I visited the trail again and Nathan Mallory used my scope to take this photo of the two owlets sleeping.  You can see their stick nest above them on the lattice.

Two great horned owlets sleeping near their nest under the Anderson Bridge (photo by Nathan Mallory)

Two great horned owlets sleeping near their nest under the Anderson Bridge, 3 Apr 2016 (photo by Nathan Mallory)

So there were three owlets in this nest. The first is in rehab.  The other two will probably fly soon.

 

 

p.s. As you can see, the Anderson Bridge is very rusty!  It will be completely replaced in a few years, after the Greenfield Bridge is done.

(photos by Kate St. John and Nathan Mallory)

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Apr 01 2016

What About Egg #3?

Two nestlings watch as parent bald eagle returns to the Hays nest (photo from Hays eaglecam)

Two nestlings watch as parent bald eagle returns to the Hays nest (photo from Hays eaglecam)

 

By now it’s clear that the two nestlings in the Hays bald eagle nest are doing well but many of you wonder about the third unhatched egg.  What will happen to it?  Why hasn’t it hatched?

One unhatched egg is a fairly common occurrence in the nests of many birds.  Some eggs are not fertile, some have developmental issues. There are many reasons.  Birds often lay more eggs than actually hatch, perhaps as insurance against this rather common eventuality.

Among bald eagles, the need to brood the young for a week allows ample opportunity for remaining eggs to continue incubation and eventually hatch. While the adults brood the nestlings they can hear if an egg has a live bird in it because baby birds make peeping and hammering sounds inside the egg a day or more before hatching.  Eggs that aren’t going to hatch are silent.

What happens to unhatched eggs?  Birds are not emotional about them. When it’s obvious an egg won’t hatch, the family moves it around the nest for their convenience. In bald eagles’ nests it may eventually become buried under debris along with the remains of dinner.

What if it hatches now, more than a week late?  Here’s the answer from the Audubon Society of Western PA on their Bald Eagles of Western PA Facebook page on March 30, 9:39pm:

“We’ve gotten many questions about the last egg in the Hays nest. At this point there are no good options for what can happen with that egg. Perhaps the egg is just not viable and will not hatch. But if the egg should hatch (there is still a remote possibility) the newly-hatched eaglet would have a difficult time thriving. It would be more than a week younger than its siblings, meaning it would be much smaller and have a hard time competing for available food. While nobody likes to hear this, it is nature and if we didn’t have a webcam focused on the nest, we wouldn’t even know it was happening. All we can do now is wait and see how it plays out…and be thankful for the two vibrant eaglets that we do have in Hays.” — eagles.aswp.org

The text above gives you a hint.

Knowing bald eagle family life as I do, my hope is that the third egg never hatches.

 


UPDATE, 2 April 2016, 7:36am:  See below for a press release about Egg#3 from the Audubon Society of Western PA.

ASWP_logo

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania Statement on the Remaining Egg in the Hays, PA Bald Eagle Nest

For immediate release, April 2, 2016.

There is one unhatched egg remaining in the Hays, PA Bald Eagle nest. The egg has gone one week past the typical 35 day incubation period and at this time, the adult eagles are no longer actively incubating the egg. Audubon believes that the egg is not viable and will not hatch.

While we will never know for certain why this egg did not hatch, it’s possible that it was not fertile from the start. An infertile egg cannot develop into an eaglet and the egg would thus be deemed non-viable. It’s also possible that something went wrong developmentally within the egg after it was laid.

Across the state in Hanover, it appears that their local Bald Eagles also have an egg that is not going to hatch. We do not believe that there is any connection between the non-hatchings in Hanover and Hays—it’s nothing more than a coincidence. Last year, both sides of Pennsylvania had abnormally cold winters, which we believe was one of the factors that led to an unsuccessful breeding season for our Pittsburgh Bald Eagles. But in 2015, the Hanover Bald Eagles raised and fledged young, while facing the same cold temperatures. Before webcams were pointed on these nests, we did not know what was happening inside of them. Today we can see nature at work—both the good and the hard, sometimes uncomfortable reality of it.

The positive news is that the Hays Bald Eagles have two healthy and vibrant eaglets in their nest—eaglets that are approaching two weeks old and growing every day. We look forward to watching their continued growth and development, and eventual fledging from the nest in early summer. The Hays Bald Eagles have successfully hatched six eaglets: one in 2013, three in 2015, and two in 2016. The unhatched egg will eventually be broken through activity in the nest—parents and eaglets moving around. The egg, like the shells of the hatched eaglets, will eventually become invisible within the nest. An image of the female Hays Bald Eagle and two eaglets is attached.

Watch Pittsburgh’s eagles at eagles.aswp.org. For additional information on the Hays and Harmar Bald Eagles, please visit our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pittsburgheagles, where daily updates on both nests are posted. The Harmar Bald Eagles’ first egg is expected to hatch on our around April 13.

 

(photo from Hays eaglecam)

p.s. Celebrate bald eagles this weekend at Audubon Society of Western PA’s Beechwood (Allegheny County) and Succop (Butler County) locations with a free “Eagle Egg” Hunt and other activities.

On Saturday, April 2 at Beechwood: Egg hunts at 11 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm – bring a bag to collect eggs! Parking is at Fairview Elementary School, 738 Dorseyville Road. Shuttles will bring visitors to Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve. Please allow time for the shuttle to transport you to the event. The Pennsylvania Game Commission and PixController will be onsite, as well as a local chicken expert who will bring baby chickens! There will also be games, crafts, and activities. Register today for Beechwood!

On Sunday, April 3 at Succop: Egg hunt begins at 12 pm – bring a bag to collect eggs! Then participate in eagle-themed games, crafts, and activities. Register today for Succop!

Or call (412) 963-6100 to sign up.

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Mar 31 2016

A Tale of Two Owls

Great horned owl on nest under the Homestead Grays Bridge, 27 March 2016 (photo by John English)

Great horned owl on nest under the Homestead Grays Bridge, 27 March 2016 (photo by John English)

For months we thought the old red-tailed hawks’ nest under the Homestead Grays Bridge was abandoned, but last Sunday John English discovered it is very much occupied — by a great horned owl.  John posted the photo above in the Duck Hollow Facebook group with this diagram of its location.

Location of nest under Homestead Grays Bridge (photo by John English)

Location of nest under Homestead Grays Bridge (formerly called the Homestead High Level Bridge) as seen from Red Robin at The Waterfront. Duck Hollow is on right, across the river (photo by John English)

Dana Nesiti (EaglesofHaysPA) stopped by yesterday and got this beautiful shot of the mother owl. In this species, only the females incubate and brood.  Father owl perches nearby during the day.

Great horned owl on nest under the Homestead Grays Bridge, 30 March 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Great horned owl on nest under the Homestead Grays Bridge, 30 March 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Dana watched for 45 minutes and was rewarded with a glimpse of the tiny owlet — the round white head at center-right of the nest.  I’m no expert but my guess is this owlet hatched 1-2 weeks ago.

Great horned owlet in nest under Homestead Grays Bridge, 30 March 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Great horned owlet in nest under Homestead Grays Bridge, 30 March 2016 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

 

Meanwhile, not far away….

At midday on Monday Cathy Bubash posted a comment on my blog that there was an injured owl on the road at Schenley Park’s Anderson Playground.  We traded email addresses and Cathy sent photos. Oh my!  It’s not an injured adult. It’s a fledgling great horned owl!

Great horned owl fledgling, Schenley Park, 29 Mar 2016 (photo by Cathy Bubash)

Great horned owl fledgling, Schenley Park, 29 Mar 2016 (photo by Cathy Bubash)

He’s old enough to fly, though he isn’t very good at it. He appears to be about 8 weeks old.

Great horned owl fledgling in flight, Schenley Park, 29 Mar 2016 (photo by Cathy Bubash)

Great horned owl fledgling in flight, Schenley Park, 29 Mar 2016 (photo by Cathy Bubash)

I visited the area at 4:30pm and found the owl safely perched on a hillside tree below the playground. His parents could find and feed him overnight … but where were they?

In all my visits to Schenley Park I’ve never encountered a great horned owl and never seen a nest.  I rechecked two abandoned red-tailed nests on nearby bridges. Nothing.

On Tuesday morning the owl was back on the asphalt at Anderson Playground so Public Works employees wisely called the PA Game Commission who collected the owl and delivered it to ARL Wildlife Center for evaluation.

Great horned owl fledgling rescued at Schenley Park by PGC, 29 March 2016 (photo by Kevin Wilford)

Great horned owl fledgling rescued at Schenley Park by PGC, 29 March 2016 (photo by Kevin Wilford)

It’s a good thing this owl was rescued.  He’s not injured but he is emaciated.  Did he have parents in Schenley Park?

Based on his age — two months older than our local owlets — I had a theory that he hatched in the South, perhaps the Carolinas, and was brought to Pittsburgh by someone who dumped him at the secluded end of the playground when he got too big.

But my theory was wrong! After publishing this blog I learned that a Public Works employee saw a great horned owl this morning at 6:45am near the Anderson Bridge.

In any case, while this owl fattens up he will have a good foster mom at ARL.  Martha the great horned owl will teach him everything he needs to know.

 

(photos by John English, Dana Nesiti, Cathy Bubash and Kevin Wilford)

Event:  This Sunday, April 3, 4:00-6:00pm, you can meet owls from the ARL Wildlife Center at their fundraiser at the Galleria of Mount Lebanon.  Click here to register.

p.s. Ravens are rare in the City of Pittsburgh but I saw a pair poke at the Homestead Grays Bridge nest on February 18.  They were agitated. Now I know why.  The owl was probably in the nest and just beginning incubation. Ravens hate great horned owls.

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Mar 23 2016

Second Egg Hatched at Hays Eagle Nest


Second egg hatches at Hays bald eagle nest, 22 March 2016, 9:40pm

 

Peregrine news has been so intense lately that I missed telling you about Pittsburgh’s first eaglet of 2016 … and now there are two nestlings at the Hays bald eagle nest.

Here’s a roundup of Hays nest news from first hatch on Monday to last night’s second hatch.  There’s one egg still in the nest.

1. First egg hatched on Monday March 21 at 12:37 am (just after midnight).  See video below

News reports of 1st egg:

2. Second egg hatched 45 hours later on Tuesday March 22 at 9:40pm. See video at top.

News reports of 2nd egg:

 

The last egg in the nest, Egg #3, is expected to hatch on Friday.

Watch the nestlings and chat about them at eagles.aswp.org.

Visit Audubon of Western PA’s eagle Facebook page for more information.

 

(YouTube videos captured by PixController from the Hays eaglecam. Watch Pittsburgh’s eaglecam sat eagles.aswp.org)

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Mar 13 2016

Falcons and Eagles: A Nestcam Round-up

Louie explores the nest area while Dori perches above at the Gulf Tower (photo from the National Aviary falconcam)

Louie explores the nest area on 10 March 2016 while Dori perches above (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

Raptor nesting season is already upon us.  Bald eagles have eggs.  Peregrine falcons will lay them soon.  Here are some opportunities to watch their nests from the comfort of your home.

  • Peregrine Falcon Cams:
    • Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh: My all-time favorite webcam shows Hope and E2 as they prepare to nest together for the first time.  Watch for eggs this month.
    • Gulf Tower, Downtown Pittsburgh: Dori and Louie, shown above, are spending time at the Gulf Tower this spring after nesting at non-camera sites for a few years.  Will they nest at Gulf this year? The real litmus test will be when Dori lays eggs, mid-March to early April. (*)
    • Times Square Building, Rochester New York: The female at Rochester’s Times Square has a Pittsburgh connection.  Beauty was born at the Cathedral of Learning in 2007. She’s Dorothy and Erie’s daughter.
    • Wilmington, Delaware: Red Girl at Wilmington is one of the first peregrines to lay eggs in the Mid-Atlantic. She already has four, laid March 5 through 10.
    • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Falconcam: Another early nester, the female in Harrisburg began laying eggs on March 7.
  • Bald Eagle Cams:
    • Pittsburgh’s Hays and Harmar bald eagles:  Two nests on one convenient web page at eagles.aswp.org.  The Hays female laid her eggs on February 13, 16 and 20 so her first hatch will be (approx) March 19.  Harmar’s first egg was March 9 so watch for hatching on (approx) April 13.
    • Decorah, Iowa:  Decorah is one of the longest running eagles cams in the U.S.
    • Check the Eagleholic Eagle Cam list for a list of webcams complete with egg dates.  Pittsburgh’s two nests are listed as “Pittsburgh Hays” and “Harmar”.
  • Watch great horned owls, barred owls, red-tailed hawks and others at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cam page.

This list is just a sampling.  If you have a favorite nestcam post it in Comments below.

 

(*) Keep in mind that the cameras show only a small piece of these birds’ lives.  You must visit their territories and observe them in person to see what’s really going on.  Case in point: Click here for two comments (read the question and answer) about yesterday’s lack of activity at the Gulf Tower.

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

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Feb 21 2016

Three Eggs at the Hays Eagle Nest


Third bald eagle egg at Hays

Since yesterday afternoon at about 2pm there are now three eggs at the Hays bald eagle nest in the City of Pittsburgh.

In backwards order, the egg above is the 3rd one (February 20). The video below is the second one, laid on February 16. Click here for the first one on February 13.


Second bald eagle egg at Hays

There are still no eggs at Pittsburgh’s other webcam eagle nest at Harmar, but by the time you read this it may have changed.

As always, watch the Hays and Harmar eaglecams on the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania website at eagles.aswp.org.   Read more on their Facebook page.

(videos of the Hays bald eagle near in Pittsburgh, PA from PixController’s Facebook page)

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Feb 19 2016

Celebrity Vultures In Peru

 

What does a city do when it’s overwhelmed by illegal garbage dumps?

In Lima, Peru much of the trash generated by its 10 million people is dumped illegally but it’s hard to clean up because the dumps are hidden and people don’t care.  In December 2015 the Peru Ministry of Environment enlisted the help of birds.

Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) are excellent at finding garbage — after all, their lives depend on it — so the program equipped 10 black vultures with GPS trackers and GoPro cameras and Ta dah!  The vultures find the dumps. The humans place the dumps on the map and clean them up.  And the vultures have become celebrities.

See the maps at Gallinazo Avisa.  Meet the vultures — they have names — in their second video here.  (Don’t miss the punchline at the end of the video!)

Read more about Peru’s “Vultures Warn” program at fastcoexist.com.

 

(video from Gallinazo Avisa at YouTube)

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Feb 14 2016

First Eagle Egg At Hays, Feb. 13

Perhaps you’ve already heard the happy news …

(Pittsburgh, PA – February 13, 2016) It’s not yet Valentine’s Day, but love is in the air at the Hays Bald Eagle nest. This morning, Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania confirmed that the Hays eagles have one egg in the nest. The egg was laid overnight, when the Bald Eagle web camera was turned off. The egg was noticed at 7:30 am when the cam came back up, clearly showing one of the eagles sitting on an egg.

Watch two Pittsburgh-area bald eagle nests — both Hays and Harmar — on the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania website at eagles.aswp.org.   Read more on their Facebook page.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

p.s. This egg was laid four days earlier than her first egg in 2015.

(video from the Hays Eaglecam via PixController’s Facebook page)

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Feb 02 2016

Drinking Blood?

Yellow-headed caracara on a cow in Venezuela (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Yellow-headed caracara on a cow in Venezuela (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When I wrote that yellow-headed caracaras pick ticks off of mammals Dr. Tony Bledsoe pointed out that, based on the similar behavior of an African bird, it’s possible the caracaras are also drinking the animals’ blood.

Ewww!  What gives?

In Africa, there are birds called oxpeckers (two species in genus Buphagus: yellow-billed and red-billed) that also perch on mammals and eat ticks, lice, fleas, and biting flies found on the animals’ skin.  Studies have shown that individual oxpeckers eat up to 100 engorged ticks or 13,000 nymphs per day.  Quite a benefit to the animal!

Yellow-billed oxpecker on a large bovine mammal in Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Yellow-billed oxpecker on a large bovine mammal in Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Engorged ticks contain tiny blood meals so it’s not a big leap that the oxpeckers sometimes to go directly to the blood source, pecking and plucking at an animal’s wounds.  Despite this parasitic and perhaps painful behavior, many mammals tolerate the oxpeckers although elephants and some antelopes shoo them off when they land.

Yellow-headed caracaras are unrelated to oxpeckers but their tick-eating behavior extends to blood meals as well. The Handbook of the Birds of the World includes this remark about the caracara’s eating habits:

“Perches on cattle and Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) to pick off ticks; picks flesh from open wounds on backs of cattle, which often seem oddly indifferent to the process.”

It sounds gruesome but the benefits of having your own portable tick-remover apparently outweigh the occasional blood meal.

 

(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the images to see the original)

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Jan 31 2016

Near Open Water

Published by under Birds of Prey

Eastern screech-owl near Loyalhanna Dam, 28 Jan 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Eastern screech-owl near Loyalhanna Dam, 28 Jan 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Often the best birds are near open water, even if they don’t eat fish.

Anthony Bruno found these two at Loyalhanna Dam on January 27 and 28 — an eastern screech-owl (who doesn’t eat fish) and an immature bald eagle (who does).

Immature bald eagle, Loyalhanna Dam, 27 Jan 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Immature bald eagle, Loyalhanna Dam, 27 Jan 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

 

As we head into February, birds are harder to find in western Pennsylvania.  It’s the low ebb of our birding year.

Check out the places with open water and you’ll have better luck.

Look closely.  They may be camouflaged.

 

(photos by Anthony Bruno)

p.s. I went to Loyalhanna Dam today and saw 5 bald eagles but I missed the eastern screech-owl.

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