Archive for the 'Nesting & Courtship' Category

Mar 27 2017

Why Aren’t They Sitting On The Eggs?

Published by under Nesting & Courtship

Terzo and 4 eggs, Cathedral of Learning nest, 24 Mar 2017, 12:02pm (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Terzo and 4 eggs, Cathedral of Learning nest, 24 Mar 2017, 12:02pm (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

This year we have two peregrine nests on camera in Pittsburgh and both families are incubating right now.  At the Gulf Tower the adults are always covering the eggs, but at the Cathedral of Learning the peregrines sometimes leave them exposed.  Is this bad for the eggs? Will the eggs fail?

Don’t worry. The eggs will be fine.  What you’re observing is the parents’ response to different microclimates at the nests.

A microclimate is a small area with a different temperature and/or moisture than the larger region.  You’ve probably experienced this yourself.  When it’s 50 degrees at Pittsburgh International Airport it feels cold in the shade with a 20 mph wind.  Meanwhile, next to a warm wall out of the wind it can be 68oF.

The Cathedral of Learning nest faces south, is in full sun most of the day, and is sheltered from the wind by walls that surround it on three sides. The walls retain heat so the area stays warm and allows the adult peregrines to take a break from incubation.

The Gulf Tower nest faces northeast, has no direct sunlight, and is very windy on cold days (north winds).  The nest is so cold in March and April that the peregrines must cover the eggs almost constantly.

GulfTower nest incubation underway, 23 Mar 2017,12:19pm (screenshot from National Aviary falconcam)

Gulf Tower incubation in the shade, 23 Mar 2017,12:19pm (screenshot from National Aviary falconcam)

The heat at the Cathedral of Learning is an advantage in early spring but it’s bad news in May when the weather warms up.  The area becomes so hot that the parents pant and shade their young for fear the chicks will die of heat.  Below, Hope shades her chick on a hot day in early May 2016. The Gulf Tower never has this problem!

Hope shades her chick from the hot sun, 7 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope shades her chick from the hot sun, 7 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

So don’t worry when the Pitt peregrines take an incubation break.  They know more about eggs and about the temperature at their nest than we do.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Univ of Pittsburgh and Gulf Tower)

p.s. Some of you were wondering if Terzo ever participates in incubation.  Indeed he does!  Yesterday, March 26, he spent half the day on the nest, 6.25 hours.  Here’s who was incubating and when on 26 March 2017.

  • Hope: overnight – 7:12a
  • Terzo: 7:16a – 9:46a
  • Hope: 9:47a – 1104a
  • Terzo: 11:12a – 12:37p
  • Hope: 12:42p – 5:37p
  • Terzo: 5:38p – 7:50p (It was getting dark by then.)
  • Hope: 7:55p – overnight

Look carefully!  Terzo is often on camera.  Use these tips to identify him.

4 responses so far

Mar 26 2017

Hays Bald Eagle Hatch Watch

Bald eagle near the nest, 25 Mar 2017 (photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA on Facebook)

Bald eagle near the Hays nest, 25 Mar 2017 (photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA on Facebook)

Six weeks ago on February 13, the Hays bald eagle nest tree blew over in a storm while the female was incubating her first egg.  Within a week the pair built a new nest nearby and, though they can’t be seen on the webcam, observers on the ground can tell the eagles began incubation on a new egg on February 19.

Bald eagle eggs typically hatch in 35 days.  Today, March 26, is the 35th day.

Eagle fans don’t wait until hatch day to begin their vigil.  Yesterday Dana Nesiti (Eagles of Hays PA on Facebook) arrived before dawn and captured the photo above. I stopped by at 3pm and found Eaglestreamer and LFL on duty.

Eaglestreamer and LFL at the Hays bald eagle viewing site, 25 March 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Eaglestreamer and LFL at the Hays bald eagle viewing site, 25 March 2017 (photo by Kate St. John)

Eaglestreamer has tracked the Hays eagles for years and told me that their first hatch date is often Day 37 so there’s still time to be there for the big event.  (See Eaglestreamer’s hatch website here.)

Even if you miss the hatch, the eagles will be exciting in the days ahead as they bring food to the nest.

Click here for directions to the Hays viewing area.  On Facebook, see Hays bald eagle photos by Annette Devinney, Dana Nesiti, Dan Dasynich … and many of their friends.

 

(bald eagle photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA on Facebook. Eaglestreamer and LFL photo by Kate St. John)

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Mar 22 2017

Demonstrating Thoughts Of Love

Pigeons courting (photo by Aomorikuma via Wikimedia Commons)

Pigeons courting (photo by Aomorikuma via Wikimedia Commons)

In the spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast
In the spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest
In the spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove
In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

— from Locksley Hall by Alfred Tennyson

 

Despite this month’s cold weather birds are courting in western Pennsylvania.  In the cities, at the silos, pigeons are easiest to watch.

Learn how they demonstrate thoughts of love in this article from March 2010:

Thoughts of Love

 

p.s. The story told in Locksley Hall is different from its most famous line. Read more about the poem here.

(photo by Aomorikuma via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

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Mar 17 2017

Why Is She Shouting? and Other News

Hope shouts at Terzo, 2:20pm 15 Mar 2017 (screenshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Hope shouts at Terzo, 2:20pm 15 Mar 2017 (screenshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Ever since the female peregrine at Pitt laid her first egg on March 15 lots of people have been watching her on camera. The first question on everyone’s mind has been, “Why is she shouting?!?”

Indeed, Hope spent a lot of time shouting at the top of her lungs on Wednesday.  Here’s just a tiny dose of her voice.

She’s always been a vocal bird but this is over the top.  People can hear her inside the Cathedral of Learning and as far away as O’Hara Street behind Soldiers and Sailors Hall.  Peter Bell @PittPeregrines said, “She’s so loud you can hear her over all the traffic!”

So why is she shouting?

I don’t know but I can tell you what was happening off camera.

Before Hope began shouting, she and her mate Terzo were communicating softly over the egg and bowing in courtship.  (Note!  This behavior is a happy thing. It is not fighting.)

After he bowed, Terzo flew up to a perch above the camera about six feet away from the egg.  Hope looked right at him and began shouting.  When he flew away she shut up and sat down on the egg.  When he came back she resumed shouting.

Peregrine shouting, also called wailing, means “I want [____] to change.”  None of us speak ‘peregrine’ so we don’t know what’s in that blank.

 

In Other News:

Hope was silent on Thursday March 16 because she was busy chasing off an unbanded female intruder.  The intruder visited the nest twice and even bowed with Terzo at 12:24pm.

In the video below you can hear Terzo and the visitor chirping for 30 seconds before Terzo jumps into the nest.  Look carefully at the female and you’ll see she resembles a bird who visited three times last year: April 8, August 2 and November 14.

 

Will this be a quiet nesting season at the Cathedral of Learning?  No.

Watch the nest on the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh … and be ready to press the mute button.

 

p.s. Here’s information on what happens when intruders show up: Peregrine Fidelity to Their Mates, Fighting.

p.p.s  Three eggs at the Pitt nest as of Monday morning, March 20.

(screenshot and videos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh streamed by Wildearth.tv)

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Mar 14 2017

Nesting in a Snow Storm

Peregrine incubating in a snow storm, Harrisburg, PA, 14 Mar 2017, 6:00am (snapshot from the DEP Falcon Cam)

Peregrine incubating eggs during snow storm, Harrisburg, PA, 14 Mar 2017, 6:00am (snapshot from the DEP Falcon Cam)

One of Pennsylvania’s peregrine falcon families has a big challenge today.  They’re incubating three eggs in Harrisburg where the “Nor’easter” will bring 9 to 13 inches of snow and blustery winds until 10pm tonight.

Their nest is on a ledge of the Rachel Carson Building where four cameras provide live streams of their activity. Two snapshots taken before dawn show there was already a lot of snow at 6am.   Below, a view from the closeup camera.

Peregrine incubating in a snow storm, Harrisburg, PA, 14 Mar 2017, 6:00am (snapshot from the DEP Falcon Cam)

Peregrine incubating in a snow storm, Harrisburg, PA, 14 Mar 2017, 6:00am (snapshot from the PA Falcon Cam)

The situation looks awful to us but it’s all in a day’s work for peregrine falcons.  Here’s why:

  • Snow is a normal challenge during the nesting season.  Peregrines lay eggs in late winter so that their young will hatch when food is plentiful during spring migration. There are many stories of successful peregrine nests after blizzards in the Snow Belt. Ask folks from Cleveland, Ohio and Rochester, New York about their peregrines!
  • Feathers provide excellent insulation.  These birds are wearing down “coats” underneath their smooth body feathers.  Notice the unmelted snow on the female’s back.  This is good!
  • The brood patch (bare skin on their bellies) keeps the eggs quite warm.

During a brief respite in the snowfall, the female peregrine stood up at 6:25am.  You can see that her body has kept the nest free of snow.  Don’t worry, she was back on those eggs within 30 seconds!

The peregrines' nest has been kept warm, 14 Mar 2017, 6:25am (photo from the DEP Falcon Cam in Harriburg, PA)

The peregrines’ nest has been kept warm, 14 Mar 2017, 6:25am (photo from the PA Falcon Cam in Harriburg, PA)

Click any one of the photos above to go directly to the Live PA Falcon Cam or click here for the complete website.

Meanwhile, here in Pittsburgh we have no snow at all.

 

(snapshots from the PA Falcon Cam in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

p.s. Why are the time stamps different on the Harrisburg cameras? The wide-angle PA Falcon Cam is on Eastern Standard Time (EST); the closeup camera is on Daylight Saving Time (EDT).

4 responses so far

Mar 08 2017

First Egg at the Gulf Tower, 2017

Dori with her first egg of 2017, Gulf Tower, 8 March 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori with her first egg of 2017, Gulf Tower, 8 March 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Dori laid her first egg of 2017 at the Gulf Tower this morning (8 March 2017) at 8:29am.

Hooray, she chose the Gulf Tower!

Closeup of Dori with her first egg of 2017, Gulf Tower, 8 March 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Closeup of Dori with her first egg of 2017, Gulf Tower, 8 March 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Click here to watch her on camera.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

46 responses so far

Mar 08 2017

Graceful

Swallow-tailed kite in flight (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Swallow-tailed kite in flight (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

We use words like powerful, strong or fierce to describe raptors but this one is different.  The swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) is truly graceful.

Named for their beautiful black tails, their flight is so buoyant that they barely flap as they swoop and turn to grab food from the air or the treetops.  They seem to be moving in slow motion and it’s true.  They can fly slowly because their wings and tails are so long.

Swallow-tailed kites live year round in South America but only visit the southern U.S. and Central America to breed. They eat mostly insects which they capture with their feet but supplement their diet with frogs, lizards and nestling birds during the nesting season.

I’ve seen solo kites returning to Florida in late February but my best experience was last month on the Road Scholar birding trip to Costa Rica.  We saw flocks of swallow-tailed kites and they were spectacular!

At a pond near the road to Agua Buena, three kites skimmed the water, drinking and bathing, as graceful as swallows.  They flew so low that we could see the bluish sheen on their backs.  Jon Goodwill photographed them in the flight.

Swallow-tailed kite, bathing (photo by Jon Goodwill)

Swallow-tailed kite, bathing or drinking in flight (photo by Jon Goodwill)

Swallow-tailed kite bathing (photo by Jon Goodwill)

Swallow-tailed kite bathing (photo by Jon Goodwill)

Swallow-tailed kite lifting off from its bath (photo by Jon Goodwill)

Swallow-tailed kite lifting off from its bath (photo by Jon Goodwill)

Later we took a detour … and we were lucky.  Our guide Roger Melendez saw a pair of kites building a nest.  Bert Dudley zoomed his camera for this video of the female arranging the sticks. (You can hear us talking in the background.)

Swallow-tailed Kite making a nest

 

I would love to show you the beautiful flight of these graceful birds. This video of three man-made kites flown by Ray Bethell is the closest approximation.

Swallow-tailed kites are so graceful.

 

(top photo from Wikimedia Commons, bathing and drinking photos by Jon Goodwill, video by Bert Dudley. Click on the images to see the originals)

6 responses so far

Jan 15 2017

Hawks Soaring

Red-tailed hawk soaring (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Red-tailed hawk soaring (photo by Cris Hamilton)

Though they won’t lay eggs until March or April, red-tailed hawks are already thinking ahead in western Pennsylvania.

On sunny days in January, they claim their nesting territory by soaring above their chosen land, a gesture that says “This is mine!”

Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are generally monogamous and mate for life.  The pairs soar together in courtship flight, the male higher than his lady.  Sometimes both of them dangle their legs or he approaches her from above and touches her with his toes.

After the female zooms to the nest area the male goes into roller coaster mode, steeply flying up and down, ending with his own zoom to the female and then … perhaps they’ll mate.

Watch for soaring hawks today.  The weather promises to be sunny.

 

(photo by Cris Hamilton)

4 responses so far

Jan 05 2017

Owls Come A’Courting

Great-horned owl, hooting (photo by Chuck Tague)

Great-horned owl, hooting (photo by Chuck Tague)

On Throw Back Thursday:

January’s the month when great horned owls court and nest in southwestern Pennsylvania.  If you hear them hooting, they’re planning to nest in your neighborhood.

Read more about their courtship and hear them hooting in this vintage article from 2010:

Whoooo Said That?

 

p.s. Listen in South Oakland near the Anderson Bridge. The pair in Schenley Park will let you know they’re there.  🙂

(photo by Chuck Tague.  The owl’s white throat feathers are showing because he’s hooting.)

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Sep 09 2016

In Only Two Months

Baby birds grow so fast!  Two months ago this loon chick was only one day old at Acadia National Park in Maine.  By now he’s as big as his parents and almost ready to migrate.

Every year I visit Acadia in early September (I’m there this week) but I arrive too late to see baby birds.  Claire Staples spent most of the summer in Maine and followed a family of loons at Beech Hill Pond.  Here’s what the chicks looked like as they got older.

At five weeks old, on August 3, the chicks are not as big as their parents and are still quite downy.  They swim but they cannot fly.

Fluffy loon chick waves his foot at 5 weeks old, 3 Aug 2016 (photo by Claire Staples)

Fluffy loon chick waves his foot at 5 weeks old, 3 Aug 2016 (photo by Claire Staples)

At six weeks old they still depend on their parents for food.

Adult loon brings food for 6-week-old chicks, 10 Aug 2016 (photo by Claire Staples)

Adult loon brings food for 6-week-old chicks, 10 Aug 2016 (photo by Claire Staples)

One of them really likes to wave his foot.  This is how they stretch their legs.

Closeup of 6-week-old loon chicks, 10 Aug 2016 (photo by Claire Staples)

Closeup of 6-week-old loon chicks, 10 Aug 2016 (photo by Claire Staples)

 

On August 24 they were eight weeks old and had lost their down. Now they resemble their parents.

Loon chicks eight weeks old at Beech Hill Pond, Maine (photo by Claire Staples)

Loon chicks eight weeks old at Beech Hill Pond, Maine, 24 Aug 2016 (photo by Claire Staples)

 

The Acadia chick hatched two weeks later than Claire’s loons so today he looks like the two in the photo above.

Soon the loons will leave the lakes to spend the winter along the coast.  They grow up in only two months.

 

(video by Ray Yeager on YouTube. Photos by Claire Staples)

p.s. On Wednesday I saw a loon adult and youngster on Jordan Pond.  Based on Claire’s photos the youngster must have been six weeks old.

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