Category Archives: Peregrines

Peregrine At Arrivals

Peregrine at Landside Arrivals area, Pittsburgh International Airport, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)
Peregrine at Landside Arrivals area, Pittsburgh International Airport, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)

Sometimes a peregrine falcon shows up in the most unlikely place.  This one was hanging out at the Landside Arrivals area at Pittsburgh International Airport.

On October 10 Ed Shott left a comment on my How Old Is That Peregrine? post.

My wife [Becky Shott] is an Allegheny County Police officer at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Yesterday [Oct 9, 2017], she saw an adult Peregrine Falcon on the public arrivals area sitting on a wall between the Landside Terminal and the parking garage. Using her cell phone, she got a video and several still pictures of the bird. She was not able to get close enough to see if there were any leg bands. She also said she has seen possibly the same bird for the past six months. It has made repeated passes around the area possibly trying to grab one of the numerous pigeons that roost in the steel beams. However, she has not seen any evidence of a nest.   -- Ed Shott

When Becky sent her photos and video she wrote:

I was pretty close to this bird & could not see any bands. I have been seeing a peregrine (maybe more than one) around here for at least 6 months. Sometimes I see it chasing pigeons around the Landside terminal. Always a beautiful sight.

Indeed this is a gorgeous bird.  Here are more views of it on October 9, 2017.  And no, I don't see any bands either, even when I zoomed in.

Peregrine walking the wall at Pittsburgh airport Arrivals, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)
Peregrine walking the wall at Pittsburgh airport Arrivals, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)

Peregrine walking the wall at Pittsburgh airport Arrivals, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)
Peregrine at Arrivals, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)

Peregrine at Landside Arrivals area, Pittsburgh International Airport, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)
Peregrine at Pittsburgh airport Arrivals area, 9 Oct 2017 (photo by Becky Shott)

 

Wow!  This bird doesn't seem to care that people are nearby as long as they don't disturb it.

Many times at the airport I've thought about the large number of pigeons and starlings at the parking lots and garage, especially the huge flocks in winter.  But it never occurred to me that a peregrine would show up to eat them.

Thanks to the Shotts for alerting me to this peregrine.

If you're waiting to be picked up at the airport, watch across the driveway for a peregrine falcon.  You never know what you'll see.

 

(photos and video by Becky Shott)

Autumn Raptors

Peregrine falcon, Hillary, in autumn in Ohio (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)
Peregrine falcon, Hillary, in autumn in Ohio, before 2011 (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Today, three scenes of raptors in autumn.

Above, a peregrine falcon flies over the Rocky River.  This photo of Hillary, who nested at the Hilliard Road Bridge in Rocky River, Ohio, was taken by Chad+Chris Saladin prior to 2011.

 

A bald eagle ascends at Glade Dam Lake, Butler County, October 2017.  Photo by Steve Gosser.

Bald eagle at Glade Dam Lake, October 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Bald eagle at Glade Dam Lake, October 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)

 

A red-tailed hawk migrates south past the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, October 2012. Photo by Steve Gosser.

Red-tailed hawk flies by the Allegheny FrontHawk Watch, October 2012 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Red-tailed hawk flies by the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, October 2012 (photo by Steve Gosser)

 

(photos by Chad+Chris Saladin and Steve Gosser)

How Old Is That Peregrine?

Adult peregrine falcon in flight, Univ.of Pittsburgh, 2016 (photo by Peter Bell)
Adult peregrine falcon in flight, Univ.of Pittsburgh, 2016 (photo by Peter Bell)

Now's a good time to brush up on identifying peregrine falcons since they pass by hawk watches in October, especially on the coast.  When you identify a peregrine you can also tell how old it is because the plumage is different in each age group:  adult, juvenile, and sub-adult.

Plumage provides an exact age for two groups in October:  Juveniles are first year birds, 6 months old, that hatched last spring. Sub-adults are second year birds, 18 months old, with nearly complete adult plumage.

Adults -- two or more years old -- all have the same plumage.  Unfortunately you can't know an adult's exact age unless the bird is banded and you find out its provenance.

Here's what they look like:

Adult peregrines (2+ years old in October) have fresh plumage in charcoal gray and white.  The photo at top shows an adult male in flight.  The photo below is an adult female.  Adults have:

  • Solid dark charcoal helmet (head)
  • Dark charcoal malar stripes (on face)
  • Clean white or slightly rosy chest and throat
  • Horizontal charcoal+white stripes on belly and flanks
  • Gray back: Male's is pale blue-gray.  Female's is "muddy" gray.

Adult peregrine, Univ of Pittsburgh, 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)
Adult peregrine, Univ of Pittsburgh, 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)

 

Juvenile peregrines (6 months old in October) are the same size as adults but their colors are brown+cream.  Juveniles have:

  • Variable brown helmet with some cream-colored traces (head)
  • Brown malar stripes (on face)
  • Cream colored chest that's striped all the way up to the throat
  • Vertical brown+cream stripes on belly and flanks
  • Brown back.
  • (Bonus!) Juveniles have cream-colored tips on their tails, visible as the sun shines through them in flight.

Juvenile peregrine in flight, Univ of Pittsburgh, 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)
Juvenile peregrine in flight, Univ of Pittsburgh, 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)

Above, a juvenile in flight.  Below a juvenile shows off the vertical stripes on his chest and belly.  His variable brown helmet with "eyes on the back of his head" and horizontal cream-colored line at his crown.

Juvenile peregrine falcon, Univ. of Pittsburgh, 2016 (photo by Peter Bell)
Juvenile peregrine falcon, Univ. of Pittsburgh, 2016 (photo by Peter Bell)

 

Sub-adults are 18 months old with nearly complete adult plumage except for a few juvenile feathers.  They began to molt into adult plumage last spring at 10-12 months old.  By October their few juvenile feathers are hard to see without a photograph.  They are ready to breed next spring.

Below, an 18-month-old peregrine named Spirit is in rehab at Medina Raptor Center in the autumn of 2014.  You can see her back is mostly gray with just a few brown feathers.  Her head shows faint traces of the juvenile cream colors.

18-month-old peregrine falcon, Spirit, in rehab at Medina Raptor Center, Nov. 2015 (photo by Kate St.John)
18-month-old peregrine falcon, Spirit, in rehab at Medina Raptor Center, Nov. 2015 (photo by Kate St.John)

For a view of sub-adult plumage in the spring, see these photos taken in March 2016 of a 10-month-old Juvenile Peregrine Falcon Transitioning Into Adult Plumage.

For additional tips, see Ageing Peregrine Falcons in the Field by Alex Lamoreaux at Nemesis Bird.

 

(all photos taken at University of Pittsburgh by Peter Bell ... except for the peregrine on the glove, "Spirit" at Medina Raptor Center, photo by Kate St. John)

Bowing At Dawn

Peregrine at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:20am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)
Peregrine at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:20am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)

This morning I tuned into the Gulf Tower falconcam to watch the sunrise and -- Surprise! -- there was a peregrine falcon at the nest.  Soon there were two peregrines bowing on camera.

Peregrines at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:21am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)
Peregrines at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:21am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)

Peregrines at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:22am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)
Peregrines at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:22am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)

Peregrines at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:26am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)
Peregrines at the Gulf Tower nest box, 2 Oct 2017, 6:26am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam)

These two look like Dori and Louie and, no, they aren't going to nest right now. They're strengthening their pair bond.

Happy October!

 

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Where Peregrines Nest in the Wild

Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This year, for the first time since 1984, my husband and I aren't at Acadia National Park this month but I think of it every day.  If I was there I'd be stopping by the base of this mountain to scan for peregrines.  It's one of the few wild places where I know they nest.

On Throw Back Thursday here's a description of the peregrines' wild nest sites at Acadia with news from 2010:

Where The Peregrines Nest

 

(photo of the Precipice Trail at Acadia National Park from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

Pitt Peregrines’ Granddaughter in Ontario

Thanks to Kathy Majich, I learned last month that a Pitt peregrine granddaughter is nesting in Ontario, Canada.

Dorothy and Erie were the first peregrine falcon pair at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning(*).  Their 2003 brood was especially successful because three of those four chicks went on to nest elsewhere.  One of them, Belle, nested at the University of Toledo until 2014.

During the 2014 nesting season, Belle was challenged by an intruder yet she successfully raised two chicks despite her injuries.  After the chicks were banded and fledged, Belle disappeared and the intruder took over.  Belle's mate, Allen, coached the youngsters to independence.

This year we're happy to discover that one of those chicks, Dr. Jane, was identified this spring in St. Marys, Ontario raising her own two chicks with her mate Cosmo.

(click on "View larger" so see Pittsburgh on the map.)

 

So Dorothy and Erie's legacy continues with a granddaughter and great-grands in Ontario.

Click on the image above to read about "Dr. Jane" at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation's Facebook page.  Click here to read about the peregrine family in St. Mary's Stratford Beacon Herald.

 

(photo linked from Canadian Peregrine Foundation Facebook page. Map showing St. Mary's, Ontario linked from Google maps)

(*) Note: Dorothy hatched in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1999 and was present at the Cathedral of Learning from 2001 through 2015.  Erie hatched in Columbus, Ohio in 1998 and was present at Pitt from 2001 through 2007. Erie was followed by E2.

 

Only One Left

Juvenile female peregrine, 08/BR, at Heinz Chapel, 8 June 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)
Juvenile female peregrine, 08/BR, at Heinz Chapel, 8 June 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)

Yesterday I learned that this juvenile female peregrine, black green 08/BR, was found dead at Allegheny County Airport, apparently hit by a plane on Sunday July 9.

08/BR hatched at the Cathedral of Learning this year and left home to start her new life four weeks after she first learned to fly -- right on time.  Just 6.3 miles away she found a big open space in which to hunt.  Alas, she didn't know anything about airplanes.

The video below by Peter Bell shows her on 8 June 2017 at Heinz Chapel when she was new to flying.

 

Her death, and the death of her brother 09/AP, leaves only one surviving juvenile from the Cathedral of Learning 2017 nest.  With a 62.5% mortality rate in their first year of life this peregrine brood has now matched the statistics, unhappy as that is.

Meanwhile, as of today July 14, we can confirm that the remaining young female is fine.  She's been seen and heard nearly every day in Oakland, begging from her parents in a very loud voice.  She's due to leave home any day now.

 

(photo and video of Pitt fledgling, black/green 08/BR, by Peter Bell)

UPDATE 21 July 2017:  The young peregrine died at Allegheny County Airport, not Pittsburgh International.  Thanks to Ryan for providing the correct information in the comments.

Feathers Wear Out

Recently molted feathers of Black-legged Kittiwake (photo by Jymm in public domain on Wikimedia)
Recently molted feathers of a black-legged kittiwake (photo by Jymm in public domain on Wikimedia)

On Throw Back Thursday:

Many birds molt during summer's "down time" between raising their young and fall migration.  At this point their feathers have worn out.

However (news to me!) female peregrine falcons choose a different time of year.  They begin to molt during incubation, a convenient time to do it because they're temporarily sedentary and their mates supply their food.  That's why we sometimes see a peregrine primary feather in the nest box.  Who knew!

Read more about feather wear and molting in this vintage article: Feathers Wear Out

 

(photo from Wikimedia, in the public domain.  Click on the photo to see the original)

Unhappy Friday: Peregrine Window Kill

Juvenile Pitt peregrine, 09/AP, in happier days (photo by Peter Bell)
Juvenile Pitt peregrine, 09/AP, in happier days (photo by Peter Bell)

On Friday morning, 16 June 2017, this young male peregrine from the Cathedral of Learning flew head first into a window at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) on Fifth Avenue. He died instantly.

Banded black/green 09/AP, he was the adventurer among this year's three chicks.  He flew faster, tried more stunts, and chased his parents more than his sisters do.  But, like all birds, he didn't realize that the reflection of the sky in a window is not the sky.  He never got a second chance to learn.

When he was found dead at SEI's front door, someone called the Pennsylvania Game Commission. WCO Kline recovered the bird's body and took this picture of the location where he was found.  There's a bird-strike smudge on the top right pane in the vault above the front door.

SEI front door vault where 09/AP died (photo by WCO Kline, PA Game Commission)
SEI front door vault where 09/AP died (photo by WCO Kline, PA Game Commission)

From the ground the top right window doesn't look like the sky, does it?  At a higher elevation the windowpane reflects the sky.  The strike mark's background is blue.

Front door vault at SEI with peregrine smudge on sky-background of top right glass (photo by Kate St. John)
Front door vault at SEI with peregrine smudge on sky-background of top right glass (photo by Kate St. John)

And here it has a dark reflected background so you can see it.

Feather dust at 09/AP's impact location (photo by Kate St. John)
Feather dust at 09/AP's impact location (photo by Kate St. John)

 

These photos show why the building fools birds. On every side it looks like open rectangles to the sky.  In 2011, two of Pitt's young peregrines hit the building on the Henry Street side. One died, one survived.

West wall of SEI, Dithridge Street (photo by Kate St. John)
West wall of Software Engineering Institute, Dithridge Street (photo by Kate St. John)

Front arch of Software Engineering Institute, Fifth Avenue (photo by Kate St. John)
Front arch of Software Engineering Institute, Fifth Avenue (photo by Kate St. John)

Back of Software Engineering Institute, Henry Street (photo by Kate St. John)
Back of Software Engineering Institute, Henry Street (photo by Kate St. John)

 

But this building is not unique.  Over the years young peregrines from the Cathedral of Learning have hit windows at other buildings near Fifth and Craig, died in a chimney (which has since been covered), and been hit by a vehicle.  Unfortunately peregrine mortality is 62.5% in the first year of life.

Meanwhile, windows kill one billion birds every year in the U.S.  You can help mitigate this problem by volunteering in many ways:

  • In many U.S. cities & Canada:  Volunteer with a group that rescues window-stunned birds and tracks window kills. In our area contact BirdSafe Pittsburgh (or their Facebook page).
  • If you know architects and developers, learn about bird-safe glass and urge them to use it.
  • If you have influence with LEED certification of "green" buildings, urge LEED to formally add bird-safe glass to the certification requirements (it's in the pilot phase now).  Then urge developers to use LEED.
  • Prevent window strikes at home by treating your own windows so they don't fool birds.

 

(photo of 09/AP by Peter Bell. photo of SEI front door area by WCO Kline; photos of SEI building by Kate St. John)

We Can Fly!

Pitt fledgling, male 09/AP, 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)
Pitt fledgling, male 09/AP, 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)

All three Pitt peregrines were airborne yesterday morning (June 8) and flying so well that they're hard to keep track of.

By day's end they had visited several floors of the Cathedral of Learning (CL), Heinz Chapel roof and steeple, and Alumni Hall.  Meanwhile their parents, Hope and Terzo, flew from place to place delivering food and watching the youngsters.

We could see one or two peregrines using a scope from Schenley Plaza Fledge Watch but Peter Bell got the best views by walking on the lawn near Heinz Chapel.  Great closeups!

Here's a video of one youngster on Heinz Chapel roof.

 

She and her sibling then perched on the Chapel's ornate posts. Can you find two juvenile peregrines in Peter's photo?

Two fledglings perched on Heinz Chapel's ornate roof (photo by Peter Bell)
Two fledglings perched on Heinz Chapel's ornate roof (photo by Peter Bell)

 

... and then to the steeple.

Fledgling on Heinz Chapel steeple, 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)
Juvenile peregrine on Heinz Chapel steeple, 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)

... and then to Alumni Hall's roof.

Fledgling on Alumni Hall roof, 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)
Fledgling on Alumni Hall roof, 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)

 

Hope paused after delivering food to the Forbes Ave side of the Cathedral of Learning.

Hope (69/Z), 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)
Hope (69/Z), 8 Jun 2017 (photo by Peter Bell)

She and the youngster both had food on their beaks.  This is the juvenile male, 09/AP.

Juvenile male peregrine, 09/AP, after his meal (photo by Peter Bell)
Juvenile male peregrine, 09/AP, after his meal (photo by Peter Bell)

 

The peregrines are hard to see from Schenley Plaza so PITT PEREGRINE FLEDGE WATCH IS OVER.

You might find a few of us wandering on campus with binoculars. We can't get enough of the best Pitt Peregrine Season we've had since 2012. All three are airborne. Hooray!

 

(photos and video by Peter Bell, Pitt Peregrines on Facebook)

Best Since 2012:  This is the first time in five years that we've had more than one juvenile peregrine at Pitt.  In 2012 Dorothy and E2 had 3 youngsters, only 1 in 2013, none in 2014, one in 2015. Hope and Terzo had only one fledgling last year, 2016.