Archive for the 'Nesting & Courtship' Category

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)

19 responses so far

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.)

.

 

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.)

One response so far

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.

One response so far

Jul 25 2016

The Harriers of Piney Tract

Male northern harrier nesting at Piney Tract, summer 2016 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Male northern harrier at Piney Tract, summer 2016 (photo by Steve Gosser)

This summer Steve Gosser spent a lot of time at Piney Tract in Clarion County photographing a family of northern harriers.  The harriers nested there because it's one of their preferred habitats and one of the few grasslands in western Pennsylvania.

Though they're birds of prey, northern harriers (Circus cyaneus) nest on the ground.  The male harrier usually does all the hunting, then transfers the food to his mate in an aerial prey exchange.  The female takes the prey to the nest and feeds the young but she's sneaky about it so she doesn't give away the nest location.

Throughout their nesting season Steve was able to photograph them from his car window without disturbing them.  He captured their prey exchanges and aerial maneuvers though he never saw the nest.  Later he learned that they fledged three chicks.

Read about the harriers and see Steve's beautiful photos at his blog post: A Summer Watching the Harriers at Piney Tract.

See all of Steve's work at his new website, gosserphotos.com

 

A note to my European readers: The northern harrier is the same species as the hen harrier in Europe.

(photo by Steve Gosser)

One response so far

Jul 20 2016

Peregrines Don’t Mess Around

Terzo and Hope bow at the Cathedral of Learning nest, July 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Terzo and Hope bow at the Cathedral of Learning nest, July 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Peregrines Don't Mess Around.  This is true of many aspects of peregrines' lives but here I'm referring to a new report about their sex lives.

Last weekend mentalfloss.com reported that DNA studies of peregrine breeding pairs and young in Chicago indicate that all the offspring have been born of the established pairs.  In other words, peregrines aren't having extramarital affairs.  Peregrines don't mess around.

The report also confirms that peregrines love their cliffs more than their mates:

"Even greater than their loyalty to each other was the falcons’ loyalty to their nesting sites. It makes sense; while a partner might die in a collision with a building or a power line, a safe nesting niche is forever."

Read more at ...

Given the Opportunity to Cheat on Their Mates, City Falcons Stay True

 

{Here's another link to the same study in case the one above doesn't work.}

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

 

p.s.  In case you missed it:  Yesterday July 19 at 1:45pm I saw all three peregrine family members at the Cathedral of Learning.  C1 flew in (squawking!) and landed at the 23rd floor northeast corner.  Terzo evaded her and hid in a nook at 32 east.  Hope flew in and landed on a 28th floor stone peak below Terzo.  Both parents were avoiding C1's demands.  (No worries. This is normal behavior.)

p.p.s. Thanks to @PittPeregrines for alerting me to this article.

21 responses so far

Jun 08 2016

She Turned Brown

Peregrine chick, C1, at 32 days old, 31 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Female peregrine chick at 32 days old, 31 May 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The peregrine chick at the Cathedral of Learning, C1, has changed a lot in the past week.

On May 31 she was mostly white.  Now (June 7) she's mostly brown.  C1 has grown her juvenile plumage and preened away at lot of the down.

Pitt peregrine chick at 39 days old, 7 June 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Female peregrine chick at 39 days old, 7 June 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Yesterday she was 39 days old, the age at which male peregrine chicks often fledge at the Cathedral of Learning. However, females fly a few days later than the males because they are 1/3 larger and heavier.  It will be several more days before C1 flies.

When she walks off camera she'll fledge in (typically) 2-5 days.

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

6 responses so far

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