Familiarities on the Cliff

Dorothy and E2 bow at their nest, March 2010 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

Peregrines photos are from 2011 and 2016. At that time Dorothy & E2, and the Hope & E2, were the pairs at the Cathedral of Learning.

In late winter and early spring Pittsburgh’s peregrines engage in courtship rituals that cement their pair bond.

They fly together in daring courtship flights, described here, and spend time together at or near the nest in “familiarities on the cliff” called ledge displays.

Early in the breeding season ledge displays are generally brief and may take place away from the nestcams but as egg-laying approaches the pair spends longer and longer periods together at the nest.  

Here’s what you’ll see on the Cathedral of Learning falconcam.

E2 swaggers at the nest, calling for Hope to join him, March 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)
In March 2016, E2 swaggers at the nest, calling for Hope to join him (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

The male has a ritual that he does alone.  He zooms to the nest and tries to entice his mate to join him by swaggering and walking with a high stepping tippy-toe gait. He stands high on his legs with his head bowed, and calls to his mate.  (E2 is doing that in the snapshot above.)  The male also makes scraping motions with this feet as if he is digging the “scrape” where she will lay her eggs. He pauses and looks at the female as if to say, “Will you join me?”

How long he continues this display depends on the female’s reaction.  She is usually just off camera as he calls her. We can guess where she is because he looks in her direction.

When the female joins the male at the nest the pair engages in a mutual ledge display like the one Dorothy and E2 are doing at top at the Cathedral of Learning in 2010.  In this ceremony they bow low together over the scrape (nest bowl) saying “ee-chup, ee-chup.” 

In mid-winter when peregrines first begin this ritual the bowing may last for only mere seconds.  In March when the female is only days away from egg-laying, the ceremony can last 5-10 minutes and is more intimate.  The pair calls softly and twists their heads to opposite sides.  Sometimes they touch beaks.

Here’s a video of a quick ledge display in fall, 1 November 2019, by Terzo and Morela.  Terzo arrives first. Morela is the larger bird on the left.  Listen to them “ee-chup.”

And here’s an extended ledge display by Ecco and Morela, 6 February 2021, that lasts nearly 6 mins. Ecco bows for 2 minutes before Morela jumps down to the nest.

For more information on peregrine behavior, see my Peregrine FAQs.

(photos from the National Aviary’s falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning)

5 thoughts on “Familiarities on the Cliff

  1. The “high stepping tip-toe gait” sounds adorable. Since I can’t view cams I’ll just have to imagine what this looks like.

  2. One of the Pitt Peregrines was doing nice swoops & circles around the top of the building yesterday around 4:30 PM. Maybe Dorothy, getting ready to join E2 for some “familiarities”? Sadly, the light turned green and I had to stop watching!

  3. I am on the 23rd Floor of the CL facing H. Chapel and my window is open most days. I could hear them calling in the late morning this week. I am Looking foward to hearing them yell at their new flyers late in the spring as they learn to fly around the CL and the Chapel. They sound like parents instructing their kids to drive!

  4. Leah (my daughter) just commented that the Peregrines are “so much more interesting than Jersey Shore!” True, true….:-)

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