At 29 days old, the peregrine falcon chicks at the Cathedral of Learning look different than they did a week ago on Banding Day. Their juvenile feathers now give them a speckled brown-and-white appearance.
For comparison, here's what they looked like on May 16.
Even though they're older they still act like baby birds. They sleep on their bellies and whine at their parents. In the photo at top, two chicks shout at one of their parents while a third sleeps on her belly. When they shout like this, one of the parents is perched above them out of reach. 😉
Meanwhile at the Gulf Tower ...
... the peregrine chicks are a week older (35 days old) and already look quite brown. When they're not sleeping or eating they spend time pulling white down from their bodies.
The transformation is amazing. Here's what they looked like a week ago.
The Gulf Tower youngsters will fly by the end of the month so come on down to Fledge Watch at midday, May 26-30, to see them getting ready to go. Click here for date, time and location.
Keep an eye on the sky and check the Events page before you come Downtown! Fledge Watch is a fair weather event so I will cancel if it's raining. (Ugh! Rain is predicted all weekend.)
p.s. Yes, there will be a Fledge Watch for the Cathedral of Learning peregrines -- probably June 2-6 -- but I haven't scheduled it yet.
On Wednesday May 17, Dan Brauning and Tom Keller of the Pennsylvania Game Commission checked for peregrine nests at the McKees Rocks and Neville Island I-79 bridges.
McKees Rocks Bridge:
With PennDOT's help and a bucket truck, Dan and Tom found four nestlings too young to band at the McKees Rocks Bridge. About 15 days old, they were so young that their sex could not be determined by weight. Their nest site didn't have a place for the chicks to practice flapping before fledging so Dan and Tom relocated them to a safer location nearby. Their mother came close to defend them. Dan noticed that she's unbanded.
Neville Island I-79 Bridge:
At the Neville Island I-79 Bridge, Dan, Tom and PennDOT staff walked the catwalk all the way to the Glenfield side before they found the nest. The nest was so far away that the five of us who came to observe the banding missed the entire show. All we saw was the adult male peregrine strafing the bridge in the distance.
Dan and Tom found and banded four chicks about 21 days old: three females and one male. The mother peregrine stayed near her chicks the whole time. Even in this small photo you can read her bands (black/red 62/H), confirming that she's Magnum from Canton, Ohio in 2010. (*)
(bridge photos by Robert Strover via Wikimedia Commons. Peregrine photos by Tom Keller, PA Game Commission)
(*) p.s. Magnum has been at the Neville Island I-79 Bridge since 2013.
Yesterday afternoon three female peregrine chicks were banded at the Gulf Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh. It was quite a media event with videos from KDKA and the Post-Gazette, linked below.
Here’s the story in pictures.
Before the banding, Dori guarded her nestlings. This blind is always closed except on Banding Day. Dori knows something is up.
As the banders came out on the ledge, Lori Maggio took photos from the ground. Here Dan Brauning, lead bander and Wildlife Diversity Chief at the PA Game Commission, holds up his hand so Dori can't get too close.
This chick waits patiently though she wasn't always quiet.
The process is set up like an assembly line to minimize the time the chicks are indoors.
Dan Brauning applied the bands ...
... then each chick got a health check from the National Aviary's Dr. Pilar Fish with assistance from Teri R.
You may recall that one unhatched egg remained at the nest. The PA Game Commission collected it for routine chemical tests to provide a data point in the decades-long recovery of peregrine falcons.
As the chicks were returned to the nest, Dori and Louie dove and kakked.
And then Dori resumed guard duty.
(photos by Kate St. John, John English and Lori Maggio)
Click on the links below for video coverage of the Gulf Tower banding on 16 May 2017.
Yesterday one male and two female peregrine chicks were banded at the Cathedral of Learning. All three are in good health and very vocal. They were so loud they were nearly deafening!
Here's their story in pictures.
Before the chicks were retrieved, Tammy Colt of the Pennsylvania Game Commission laid out the bands, one set for males' small legs, the other set for females' larger legs. The silver bands are unique 9-digit US Fish and Wildlife bands which cannot be read from afar. The black/green bands can be read through binoculars or in photos.
Wildlife Diversity Chief Dan Brauning shows how the silver bands interlock.
Meanwhile the mother peregrine, Hope, knows something is going to happen. She guards and waits for the action to begin.
As Dan and Tammy approach the nest, Hope shouts to defend her chicks.
From Schenley Plaza, Kim Getz saw Hope and Terzo strafe the area and dive on the banders.
Each chick was collected in a drawstring bag. The chick is weighed while in the bag to determine its sex. Even at this age males weigh 1/3 less than females.
The male chick, C6, waits and watches before his bands are applied. He was silent at this point, but not for long.
As his black/green band is applied, C6 grabs the bander's thumb with his talons. Ouch!
The first female chick, C7, was loud from the start!
The second female chick, C8, was temporarily quiet. Notice how large her toes are!
In less than half an hour the banding was done. Dan returned the chicks to the nest.
Today, 16 May 2017, is banding day for the peregrine falcon chicks at the Cathedral of Learning (10am) and Gulf Tower (2pm). These two events are closed to the public but you can come to an open event tomorrow.
The excitement begins today at 10:00am at the Cathedral of Learning when Dan Brauning of the Pennsylvania Game Commission goes out on the ledge to retrieve Hope and Terzo's three chicks. They'll receive health checks and leg bands and be returned to the nest in less than half an hour. UPDATE: 1 male, 2 females.
This afternoon it's the Gulf Tower's turn at 2:00pm when Dan retrieves Dori and Louie's three chicks, pictured at top. The camera is zoomed too close for this event so you'll miss some of the action but you'll certainly hear it on the falconcam. As you can see below, there's a lot of nest area at the Gulf Tower that we can't see. We'll zoom out the camera this week.
UPDATE: 3 females at Gulf.
Tomorrow, with PennDOT's help and a bucket truck, Dan will band peregrines at the McKees Rocks Bridge (9:30am) and the Neville Island I-79 Glenfield Bridge (UPDATE! approximately 1:00pm, after lunch).
You're welcome to view the I-79 Glenfield Bridge banding from the park-n-ride below the bridge on Neville Island. Click here for directions.
American robins (Turdus migratorius) live and nest near us but they're so common that we often don't notice them. Here's an opportunity to watch a robin's nest up close.
On Monday May 8, Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced the first hatchling at its American Robin Nestcam in Ithaca, New York. Baby robins take only 12-14 days to fledge so there will be lots of activity between now and May 20-22.
When I tuned in this morning before dawn there was no adult on the nest. I know so little about robin behavior that I was full of questions. Are the chicks already past the brooding stage so they don't need an adult overnight? Was the mother up early to look for food? Or did something happen to her? I'll have to watch and find out.
The Gulf Tower chicks are three weeks old and growing their juvenile feathers. Because of this they now have "faces" and pin feathers visible on the edge of their wings (above).
Are you worried that the parents aren't nearby because you can't see them on camera? In Lori Maggio's photo (below) Louie and Dori are both looking at the nest on the left but you can't see them on camera because it's zoomed in. No matter how widely we zoom the camera view, you'll never see Dori when she's perched on top of it.
Across town at the Cathedral of Learning the chicks are two weeks old and very well fed. They're getting feather tracts under their down which makes them look as if they have lines under the white fluff.
Above, one chick is full so he's "excused himself from the table." Later he changes his mind and comes back for more.
Last weekend a reader asked if Terzo ever comes to the nest. Yes he does. Often. At the end of this feeding, Terzo arrived to shelter the chicks while Hope took out the garbage.
You can tell this is Terzo by looking at the white patch on his face. Terzo's patch is all white and shaped like a heart. Hope's is "muddied" by gray at the top of the white.
And finally, this Gulf Tower photo can teach us four things about young peregrines.
The chick who is still being fed is nearly full. His crop (in his throat) is bulging so much that it shows bare skin. Later in life his crop will still bulge when he's full, but it will be covered with feathers.
Two of the chicks have eaten enough and are no longer hungry. #2 is standing by, posed like a downy Buddha.
Chick #3 is so full that he's left for the opposite corner. Yes, the chicks can walk.
Notice the two #4s by their feet:
On the left, you see that the chick is resting on his heels rather than standing up on his toes like his mother does. This is normal for his age.
The chick's legs and toes are pale yellow. His mother's are orange-yellow. Immature peregrines retain the pale color until they're old enough to breed.
At the Gulf Tower the chicks are old enough that they don't need to be brooded. Their parents are nearby but you usually can't see them on camera ... except in this photo.
When peregrine falcon chicks are two weeks old -- May 3 at this nest -- they walk off the scrape. These chicks have already begun walking (see below) so we'll try to zoom out the Gulf Tower camera soon. If one chick "disappears" it's only because he walked an inch out of view and we weren't quick enough to zoom out.
On Sunday April 30, Terzo was seen limping and favoring his left foot (shown below).
Those of us who've watched falconcams for many years know that injuries like this occur fairly often and the parents cope. Yesterday Terzo was limping less, so he's getting better. If his foot heals nicely, that's great. If it doesn't, he'll compensate. Meanwhile, the chicks will reach the no-more-brooding stage this week and their mother will resume hunting. Hope will help provide for them, too.
During yesterday's thunderstorm and Tornado Watch(!) all five family members huddled in the Cathedral of Learning nest. Hope fed the chicks at the beginning of the storm, then everyone stood by and waited it out.
You can see that Terzo, on the left, is clearly smaller than Hope. This male-female size difference is typical of peregrine falcons.
We had so much peregrine news this week that Throw Back Thursday is a day late. Today, at last, I can talk about a different bird.
Male American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) returned to Pennsylvania in late February or March and immediately set up their courtship "stomping" grounds. At dusk they'd strut and peent, then launch into the air with whistling wings to claim territory and attract a mate.
By the end of April dancing time is nearly over because the females are nesting and their eggs will hatch soon. When they hatch, the chicks will be as well hidden as the eggs.
At Magee Marsh, Ohio in May 2013 this woodcock family was hidden in plain sight. I couldn't see them no matter how hard I tried! Read more in this vintage article: Woodcock Family