Mar 18 2016
Since learning the tragic news of E2’s death while his mate Hope is laying eggs, we have all wondered what will happen at the Cathedral of Learning nest. The situation is more poignant this morning; Hope laid a third egg last night.
Many of you have asked questions about E2’s death, Hope’s present circumstances, and Hope’s future. Here are your questions and a few answers. As you will see sometimes the answer is, “We don’t know.”
- What happened to E2?
- I know death is a fact of life, but is it a norm that an entire peregrine family is wiped out in 8 months?
- The death of Dorothy, E2 and last year’s chick is an unusual combination of age and accident. Dorothy was elderly and likely to die within the year. Peregrine fledgling mortality is 60% (that is normal). The last nestling died because he was handicapped at birth due to Dorothy’s advanced age at conception. E2’s death is a surprise at this moment but at age 11 he was heading for late middle age. The family is bigger than those three birds. Dorothy fledged 43 young, 21 of them were E2’s. The family lives on in their many descendants.
- Will Hope lay more eggs?
- She will until her system is clear of them. Egg laying is stimulated by courtship and the presence of her mate. We do not know how many eggs she had in the pipeline up until E2’s disappearance.
- When will Hope begin to hunt on her own?
- E2 cached food on the “cliff” for the two of them to eat when hunting was precluded by bad weather. Hope will first eat the cached food. Then she will hunt.
- Does this mean these eggs won’t be incubated?
- They probably won’t but it depends on what happens next. The answer is yes if Hope finds a mate very soon, re-clutches, and incubates all of the eggs. Otherwise, the answer is likely to be No. Peregrines “know” (ingrained species knowledge) that their young cannot be incubated and brooded successfully by a single parent.
- Is it really possible for a ‘single mom’ falcon to raise her chicks alone?
- Not at this stage in the nesting cycle. During incubation, one of the adults must always keep the eggs warm. Because a single parent must hunt for her own food and hunting takes a long time, the eggs will get cold. If the eggs are not incubated but merely kept from freezing and overheating, incubation can start weeks later and the eggs will hatch.
- Is/was there an intruder?
- When a rival for a nest wins the site, the winner and the remaining adult begin courting immediately. No one has reported a second peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning and no one has seen two peregrines courting at the nest. Now that I am back in Pittsburgh (I was traveling this week), I plan to spend time watching the Cathedral of Learning for a second peregrine. I will let you know what I find out.
- When Hope advertises for a mate, how does that action differ from other peregrine activities?
- Advertising for a mate includes prominent perching and aerial displays described in the Courtship list at Peregrine FAQs. Making the moves alone means “I’m available.” However, I’m sure there are additional actions and subtle nuances I don’t know about.
- What are the odds of an unattached male peregrine being in the vicinity of the Cathedral of Learning in the near future?
- The odds are good. There are many males who want a territory and few territories available.
(Hope at the Cathedral of Learning nest with 3 eggs, pre-dawn March 18,2016. The image is black-and-white and the eggs are white because of infrared night light. photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ. of Pittsburgh)