Mar 16 2009

Peregrine FAQs

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(Gulf Tower peregrine falcon family, May 2011, from the National Aviary falconcam)

Reference Links and Frequently Asked Questions about Peregrine Falcons

Click here for the latest news on Pittsburgh's peregrines.



Pennsylvania Game Commission Peregrine Falcon Management Plan, 2013-2022
Cathedral of Learning Streaming Falconcam, Snapshot cam and Fact Sheet at the University of Pittsburgh
Gulf Tower Falconcam in Downtown Pittsburgh and Fact Sheet.
• Excellent Peregrine FAQ fact sheet from London Peregrine Partnership, UK.










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25 responses so far

25 Responses to “Peregrine FAQs”

  1. Mary Ann Pikeon 06 May 2009 at 9:10 am

    I have a hard time identifying what the parents are feeding the chicks, but sometimes it looks like a small rodent. Do they eat rodents as well as birds?

  2. Kate St. Johnon 06 May 2009 at 9:43 am

    Peregrine falcons eat birds almost exclusively. In all the years I’ve observed the peregrines at the University of Pittsburgh I have never seen the adults come anywhere near the ground – not even if they drop their prey – so it would surprise me if they went there to hunt. It’s most likely you’re seeing a dead bird without a head. Prey quickly becomes unrecognizable when the peregrines start to eat it!

  3. Nellie Curranon 16 May 2009 at 8:49 pm

    It is 8:45pm and I don’t see the parents on the nest. Are they close by ? Do they return at night? And if not where are they?

  4. Jenniferon 22 May 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Thank you so much for the wealth of information. It is awesome to be able to watch the chicks and how the parents interact with them and care for them.

    Do peregrines recognize their offspring if encountered later in life and if so, do they acknowledge them? I am curious about this.

  5. Kate St. Johnon 22 May 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I don’t know for sure if peregrines recognize their offspring later in life but I will tell you a story that causes me to think they do.
    Several years ago – around 2005 or so – Dr. Tony Bledsoe, Karen Lang and I were standing on the north side of the Cathedral of Learning chatting about peregrines. We could see both Dorothy and Erie perched on the building. As we watched Dorothy made a wailing sound and both birds flew out to meet a peregrine approaching the building. The visiting peregrine seemed to know the building and its perches. Dorothy and Erie flew with it back and forth across the north face. There was no hostility. Eventually it flew off to the east and was gone.
    I think it’s possible the visiting peregrine was one of their offspring who came back to see them briefly and that’s why they greeted it and didn’t attack. But we’ll never know for sure.

  6. Jenniferon 23 May 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Kate for sharing the story. I bet it was one of their offspring.

  7. Patsyon 27 May 2009 at 7:08 am

    Am wondering, how long after the chicks fledge do they continue to return to their nest?

  8. Kate St. Johnon 27 May 2009 at 7:12 am

    They come back for a day or two, especially if one of their siblings hasn’t fledged and is still being fed at the nest, but then they are gone. At that point the only way to see them is from the ground.

  9. Patsyon 27 May 2009 at 7:24 am

    Thank you for the information. Will miss being able to watch them up close.

  10. Joannon 09 Jun 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Kate, i have a couple of questions about the peregrine falcons-I have been watching a couple of other webcams one here in NJ & one in Manitobu. I was wondering do the birds ever drink water or anything? I was watching the chicks here in Jersey eating & it looked like one of them ate the leg from whatever bird that the parent brought for dinner to them & sometimes it looks like they are even eating a bit of the feathers from the prey. Do they eat the leg & feathers from time to time?
    Thanks for posting the pictures of the fledlings-I don’t watch this website as often now since the birds are rarely in the nest anymore but I can still watch the other 2 websites for about another month since the chicks on both were born around Memorial Day.

  11. Kate St. Johnon 27 Jun 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Peregrines don’t need to drink water because they get enough liquid from the birds they eat. And yes, they do eat feathers and feet sometimes. This gives them roughage so their crops can grind up their food. The crop substitutes for their lack of teeth.

  12. Nellie Curranon 16 Jul 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Walking in Schenley Park Monday morning this week down by Panther Hollow Lake we saw a young Red Tailed Hawk walking on the ground picking at something and as we got closer “he” flew up on the lamp post. We could see that he still is learning to fly a little better. Later we saw him from the bridge above still going from one lamp post to the next.

  13. Stephanieon 07 May 2010 at 10:53 am

    Hello Karen,

    I am curious to know what how large the chicks are now and if know, at birth. They are growing so fast.

    Also, I couldn’t find this in the FAQs, but when do you expect them to start to fledge?

    Thank you,

  14. Kate St. Johnon 12 May 2010 at 10:23 am

    Stephanie, the chicks are the size of the eggs at birth. They fit into an egg 2.13″ long by 1.645″ wide. (that’s 54mm x 41.8mm) As soon as they hatch they grow rapidly and are the same size as their parents by the time they fledge at approximately 40 days old.

  15. Cloveron 14 May 2010 at 10:17 am

    I have been looking through some of the archives and have noticed that some of the birds and other food brought to the babies are missing their heads. Is this just part of the quick kill, or is there special nutrient value in the head/brain for the parents?
    I am learning so much through these sites and on your blog ect. it is wonderful.
    Thanks in advance for your time.

  16. Kate St. Johnon 14 May 2010 at 10:43 am

    Peregrines kill their prey by biting the back of the neck & severing the spinal cord. Usually they take the head off.

    A “properly prepared” prey item has no head and has had its breast feathers plucked. During courtship the males carefully prepare prey this way and offer it to their mates. E2 is so fastidious about food preparation that he’ll make Dorothy wait until he’s done.

    These niceties are thrown to the winds after the chicks hatch. The parents are so busy that they often don’t bother to take off the head or pluck the prey before bringing it to the nest.

  17. Mary McKinleyon 21 Jul 2010 at 9:35 am

    What does it mean when you say a peregrine was “hacked?” I must have missed it when you explained that earlier. Thanks so much for your blog. This is my first year following it. Mary McKinley

  18. Kate St. Johnon 21 Jul 2010 at 9:51 am

    There’s a good explanation of hacking on the Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website. Look for the description in the middle of the webpage, the paragraph above the picture of a box on the right. The box is a “hack box.”

  19. Karen LaFranceon 19 Jan 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Kate. Very nice grisly history of peregrines! Nice to see so many peregrines in the Pgh area these days. Far cry from back in late 1980’s when Charles Bier and Steve Branca built the first nest boxes on the Gulf Tower….

    Steve might correct me on this, but as I recall it was his access through the Allegheny Conference’s corporate leaders that opened up the Gulf Tower and that corporation to the idea of hosting the first peregrine nest boxes in Pittsburgh.

    Keep up the good blog. Karen

  20. Monikaon 22 Mar 2011 at 11:31 pm

    This might be a strange question, but would peregrines mate with their offspring/parents and/or siblings? If so, any idea how common the occurrence is?

  21. Kate St. Johnon 23 Mar 2011 at 6:20 am

    Monika, I don’t know of any incident of an offspring/parent pair. I have heard of one incident of siblings pairing but do not know if they were born in the same clutch. I suspect not.
    Keep in mind that peregrines are *not* social creatures. They do not know their extended family because they do not associate with them. As my friend Karen says, “They never have Thanksgiving dinner together.” Siblings from the same parents born in different years would not know each other at all.
    Humans are social creatures, we know usually know our extended family, and we have taboos against mating with anyone too closely related. In some social groups, first cousins are too closely related. In others it is/was perfectly acceptable for first cousins to marry. Example: European royalty in the 1700s.

  22. Nickon 30 Mar 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Hi Kate,

    First off, awesome blog. I met you a couple of years ago when you were doing some bird watching at the Cathedral. Ever since then I have been fascinated with the peregrines and always take a look up to see them whenever I have a chance.
    Today I saw a hawk (red tail?) chowing down on a dead squirrel on the Cathedral lawn which led me to a question: do the peregrines and hawks get along? I have actually seen a couple of hawks around campus so I know the two birds must be aware of each other.



  23. Kate St. Johnon 31 Mar 2011 at 6:30 am

    The peregrines are indeed aware of the red-tailed hawks and vice versa. Peregrines consider red-tails a threat to their nest so they attack them if they fly anywhere near the nesting zone at the top of the building. In fact, the peregrines enforce a no-fly zone from the 20th floor of the CL downward. The red-tails must stay at or below tree height near the Cathedral of Learning. If they dare to fly higher they are attacked mercilessly. The peregrines always win.

  24. Stacyon 02 Apr 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Kate, do you know what happened to Tasha? Thanks for all of your information too!

  25. Kate St. Johnon 02 Apr 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Tasha was last seen at 10:45am on the day Dori (a.k.a. Mary Cleo from Akron, Ohio) challenged for her territory. That was March 20, 2010. There has been no news of Tasha since then.
    A solo female peregrine was seen at the 62nd St Bridge on the Allegheny River in late Spring 2010 but it was never identified — and then it was gone.