Peregrine falcons mating at Tarentum Bridge, 21 Mar 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)
On Tuesday afternoon, March 21st, Steve Gosser was lucky to be near the Tarentum Bridge when a pair of peregrines showed up. He was even luckier to photograph them mating.
This closeup shows that the male is banded, the female is not.
Closeup of peregrines mating at the Tarentum Bridge, 21 Mar 2017 (photo by Steve Gosser)
No, we don’t know who the male is. The photo is too distant to read his bands even when Steve blows it up.
But I have an idea about the female. In the closeup you can see she has lots of stripes and speckles on her breast that are similar to the unbanded female intruder who’s been visiting the Cathedral of Learning for the past year. Here are two views of that female from her March 16th visit.
Female intruder at the Cathedral of Learning,16 March 2017 (screenshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Speckled female intruder at Pitt, 16 March 2017 (This screenshot was enhanced using photo software)
Could the Tarentum female be the same bird that visits Pitt?
We need more photos and observers to know for sure. If you’d like to help, click here for a map of the best viewing location for the Tarentum peregrines.
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.
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 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 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.
One of the Downtown peregrines at Third Avenue, 2 March 2017, 4:00pm (photo by Lori Maggio)
Are the Downtown peregrines changing their minds about where they want to nest?
In February they spent a lot of time courting at the Gulf Tower, so much so that Downtown monitor Lori Maggio said they were completely absent from their other nest site on Third Avenue. She captured this photo of Dori perched at the Gulf Tower during that period. (The triangular shape and tube are the nest box roof and perch.)
Dori at the Gulf Tower, as seen from the ground, February 2017 (photo by Lori Maggio)
On Thursday March 2 Dori was at the Gulf nest before dawn but later that day, at 4:00pm, Lori found a peregrine near the Third Avenue nest (photo at top). It was the first time they’d been there since February 17.
And the next day, they were both at the Third Avenue site at noon when Lori took this photo of Dori leaving the nest area.
Dori at the Third Ave nest, 3 March 2017 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Why do they visit the Gulf Tower nest if they aren’t going to use it?
Will they come back to Gulf? We’ll find out this month.
Hope roosting near the nest, 5:18am, 26 Feb 2017 (photo from National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
As nesting season approaches female birds often roost close to their future nest sites. Last night two of Pittsburgh’s peregrines did just that.
Above, Hope roosts at the front of the Cathedral of Learning nest box. Below, Dori sleeps on the perch near the Gulf Tower nest.
Dori near the Gulf Tower nest, 5:22am, 26 Feb 2017 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
“Close” to the nest is literally true. Neither bird is actually in it.
The peregrine’s nest is a bowl scraped in dust, gravel or dirt on a high cliff ledge. The bowl’s shape prevents the eggs from rolling off the cliff and provides an edge to keep in the heat during incubation. Both the male and female help make the nest by hunkering down in the scrape and kicking the gravel back and out with their feet.
At the Gulf Tower there are two scrapes to choose from. In the photo below Dori is standing up to her ankles in the left one.
Two deep scrapes at the Gulf Tower nestbox (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
However, keep in mind that Dori is fickle about her Downtown nest site. Last year she paid a lot of attention to the Gulf Tower but disappeared on March 12 to nest at Third Avenue. I hope she’ll stay at Gulf this year.
The one thing we do know is that peregrines are closer to nesting when they stay close to the nest.