Category Archives: Peregrines

Peregrines on Ice

Peregrine (black/green 48/BR) at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)
Peregrine (black/green 48/BR) at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Midday on Friday January 12, when it was unseasonably warm, Dave Brooke went down to the Tarentum Bridge and found a lot of ice flowing by on the Allegheny River.  He also found a pair of peregrines standing on it.

Peregrines standing on ice floes in the Allegheny River, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)
Pair of peregrines standing on ice floes in the Allegheny River, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Soon, one of them took off and flew near him on its way up the river.

Pair of peregrines on ice floes in the Allegheny River, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)
Pair of peregrines on ice floes in the Allegheny River, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)
Peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)
Peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)
Peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 12 Jan 2018 (photo by Dave Brooke)

At the bird's closest approach it revealed its bands -- black/green 48/BR. They indicate he/she hatched at the Westinghouse Bridge in 2014, offspring of Hecla (Ironton-Russelton Bridge, 2009) and an unidentified male.  Click here for Banding Day photos.  48/BR is the one in the back.

Congratulations to Dave Brooke for capturing beautiful photos of these peregrines and for identifying one of them at the Tarentum Bridge!

UPDATE ON 15 JANUARY 2018!  News from Art McMorris indicates that band 48/BR is typically a female band but the sex of the bird was hard to determine at the time so Art used a female band just in case.  48/BR might be male.  We'll just have to wait and see.

 

(photos by Dave Brooke)

p.s.  In case you're wondering if Hope, the female peregrine at Pitt, will visit her old haunts in Tarentum, she's probably too busy.   While Dave was photographing the new pair at the bridge, Hope and Terzo were courting at the Cathedral of Learning.

Hope and Terzo court at the Cathedral of Learning, 12 Jan 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Hope and Terzo court at the Cathedral of Learning, 12 Jan 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Pitt Peregrine Highlights, 2017

Let's take a look back at last year's peregrine season with a slideshow of Pitt nesting highlights.  (Click on any photo to open the slideshow in its own lightbox.)

2017 was a lot calmer at the Cathedral of Learning nest than the year before.  Fortunately there was only one dramatic incident: Hope's abnormal behavior on April 25.  Here's a summary:

The 2018 nesting season will be here soon.  Stay tuned at the National Aviary falconcam at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

(slideshow photos from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh and by Peter Bell, John English and Kate St. John)

Getting Ready For Nesting Season

Before peregrine nesting begins a few of us visit the Pitt and Gulf Tower nests to conduct routine maintenance.  Sometimes we have a lot to do -- add gravel, clean the nestbox, fix the cameras -- but this year the only thing needed was a cleanup of the weatherproof covers on the National Aviary's falconcams.

Last week when Bob Mulvihill and I visited the Gulf Tower camera we didn't see any peregrines.  Yesterday at Pitt we saw two!

It was 16 degrees when we ventured out on the ledge.  Phil Hieber took photos, Bob cleaned the cameras, and I brought my hiking stick to hold high as a substitute target for peregrine attacks (instead of attacking our heads).

Bob Mulvihill heads out to clean the nestcam covers. Kate St. John follows with a stick to hold up as an "attack" target.
Bob Mulvihill heads out to clean the nestcam covers. Kate St. John follows with a stick to hold up as an "attack" target (photo by Phil Hieber)

We were surprised to see that Hope, the female peregrine, was waiting for us.  How did she know we were coming?

Peregrine falcon, Hope, waits and watches as we approach the nestcams but she says nothing.
Peregrine falcon, Hope, waits and watches as we approach the nestcams but she says nothing (photo by Phil Hieber)

As Bob got closer, Hope flew off, then silently strafed back and forth as you can see on the video.

Hope flies away as Bob approaches the falconcams.
Hope flies away as Bob approaches the falconcams (photo by Phil Hieber)

Soon Terzo joined her. He was silent, too.

A peregrine flies by (photo by Phil Hieber)
A peregrine flies by (photo by Phil Hieber)

 

In less than 3 minutes Bob was finished and we went back indoors.

Bob returns from the ledge. The job took less than 3 minutes! (photo by Phil Hieber)
Bob returns from the ledge. The job took less than 3 minutes! (photo by Phil Hieber)

 

Hope and Terzo are staying close to home this month.  They're getting ready for nesting season, too.

 

p.s. This morning it's 2 degrees F and windy so the wind chill makes it feel like -16.  Good thing we were out there yesterday.

(photos & video shot by Phil Hieber on Bob Mulvihill's mobile)

Not A Peregrine. Whew!

Injured immature red-tailed hawk near Heinz Chapel, 22 Dec 2017 (photo by Jason Bratkovich)
Injured immature red-tailed hawk near Heinz Chapel, 22 Dec 2017 (photo by Jason Bratkovich)

Yesterday afternoon Jason Bratkovich took time out of his day to help an injured raptor on Pitt's campus.

Around 3pm he found this bird, gravely injured but still breathing, near the Bellefield Avenue sidewalk at Heinz Chapel.

What kind of bird is it? Everyone knows that peregrine falcons live on campus and this certainly resembles a falcon so Jason asked for help for a downed falcon on the PittPeregrines Facebook page (Peter Bell) and he called Pitt Police.  Good job!

Report of downed red-tail to PittPeregrines from Jason Bratkovich (screenshot courtesy Peter Bell at PittPeregrines)
Report of downed red-tail to PittPeregrines from Jason Bratkovich (screenshot courtesy Peter Bell at PittPeregrines)

Pitt Police know what to do for downed peregrines. They guarded the bird and called Animal Control to come pick it up for medical attention.

Word spread across campus that a peregrine was down.  Phil Hieber of Facilities Management (long time peregrine partner) called to let me know.  I wasn't nearby so I called others on campus to check it out.  Meanwhile, John Butchko was on the scene and texted a photo to Pittsburgh Falconuts admin Kim Getz.  Kim texted me with the photo and the bird's identity.

The photo is excellent! The raptor is an immature red-tailed hawk.  My guess is that it flew low over Bellefield Avenue and was hit by a car.  Animal Control picked it up shortly after John texted the photo.

Whew!  Sad as this bird's situation is, we were all relieved to find out it's not a peregrine.

Thanks to Jason Bratkovich, Pitt Police, Phil Hieber, John Butchko, Kim Getz, Peter Bell, and everyone at the University of Pittsburgh who keeps an eye out for the peregrines.

 

What to do if you find a downed raptor on Pitt's campus:

#1. Take a picture. A photo of the downed bird is the quickest way to assess the situation and identify the raptor before help arrives.

#2. Call Pitt Police: 412-624-2121

#3. Post the photo of the bird and describe the situation at PittPeregrines Facebook page  and /or
Post a comment anywhere on my blog with the situation + your cell number. I will call you back so that you can text me the photo.  (NOTE: I will not "approve" the comment so your phone number will be seen only by me.)

Do you need tips on telling the difference between a hawk and a falcon? Click on the photo below for a helpful article:  Falcon or Hawk?

Comparing juvenile red-tailed hawk to adult peregrine (red-tailed hawk photo by Katie Cunningham, peregrine photo by Kim Steininger)
Immature red-tailed hawk [left] compared to adult peregrine falcon [right] (photos by Katie Cunningham & Kim Steininger)
 

(photo of downed red-tailed hawk by Jason Bratkovich)

Cooperative Hunting At The River

Peregrine falcon, Keystone, heading for prey at Heritage Park, Cleveland, Ohio (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)
Peregrine falcon, Keystone, heading for prey at Heritage Park, Cleveland, Ohio (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

This is the last thing a pigeon wants to see ... and sometimes it is.

On Monday I went down the Ohio River to find birds at Rochester Riverfront Park.  It was a disappointing trip for the most part with only the usual suspects -- Canada geese, mallards and ring-billed gulls -- until I looked at the big black railroad bridge that spans the Ohio River from Monaca to Beaver.  (Click on the photo below for a larger view of the bridge.)

Railroad bridge over the Ohio River from Monaca to Beaver (photo by Kate St.John)
Railroad bridge over the Ohio River from Monaca to Beaver (photo by Kate St.John)

There was a peregrine falcon at the top of the central tower ... here.

Central tower on Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge over the Ohio River, arrow shows the peregrine perch (photo by Kate St.John)
Central tower on Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge over the Ohio River, arrow shows the peregrine perch (photo by Kate St.John)

As I watched, the peregrine flew off the tower flapping hard downriver.  She'd seen a second peregrine in the distance chasing a pigeon toward the bridge, and the pigeon was escaping.  She flew off to help her mate.

The peregrines corralled the pigeon in the air so it dove straight down to the water but one of them dove faster and hit it hard.  Dead or stunned, the prey fell in the water and started to float away.

I thought they'd lost their meal.   The peregines circled above the floating prey ... and then the female flew low over river, skimmed the water with her talons, and picked it up.

Ta dah!  She flew back to the bridge to pluck and eat.  Here's a very poor photo of her back while she was eating.

The back of a peregrine, plucking and eating prey on the Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge over the Ohio River (photo by Kate St. John)
The back of a peregrine, plucking and eating prey on the Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge over the Ohio River (photo by Kate St. John)

I'd never seen a peregrine grab prey out of the water.  It made my day.

And no, I didn't take that in-flight photo at the top of this article. That's Chad+Chris Saladin's photo of "Keystone" hunting pigeons near a bridge at Heritage Park in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

(top photo by Chad+Chris Saladin, remaining photos by Kate St.John)

p.s. The peregrine pair nests at this bridge but their young are never banded because the site is inaccessible.  Where might they be nesting?  Look at the holes in the tower below the perch.  My guess is they nest in there.  Both towers have holes with whitewash below them.

Central tower on Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge over the Ohio River, arrow shows possible nesting holes (photo by Kate St.John)
Central tower on Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge over the Ohio River, arrow shows possible nesting holes (photo by Kate St.John)

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)