One incident is unfortunate.  Two is a pattern. 

After one young peregrine died on Monday in this hall of mirrors and a second was injured yesterday, my brain has been working overtime trying to make sense of it all. 

Why were there no peregrine deaths in Oakland during the first five years of nesting but at least one per year since then?   What caused this?  What changed?

From the start of Pitt peregrine nesting in 2002 through the spring of 2007, only one youngster had an accident in Oakland and it didn’t kill him.  Crash hit a window on the Cathedral of Learning, fell into an architectural nook where he was trapped overnight, and was found in the street the next evening with a broken collar bone.  He went to rehab and was released successfully the following February.  (He actually released himself.)

Since 2008 the news has been bad.  Every year at least one juvenile peregrine has died near Fifth Avenue and Craig Street.  In 2008 Sky hit the windows of the Rand Building.  In 2009 a juvenile died in the Webster Hall chimney but wasn’t discovered until October.  In 2010 one juvenile died and another was injured in that same chimney (which was covered immediately).  This year Yellow Girl died and Red was injured hitting the Software Engineering Institute’s windows on Henry Street. 

What is going on?  Why do the juveniles spend time where it’s so deadly? 

My friend Karen Lang has an answer. 

In the spring and summer of 2007 the University of Pittsburgh cleaned the Cathedral of Learning.  Up to that point the building was a pigeon palace with nests in every nook and cranny.  At the end of the cleaning project the building was pigeon-proofed with netting to cover the access points.  With few pigeons at home our juvenile peregrines learn to hunt at the next nearest flock which happens to be at Fifth & Craig.  That area is a much more dangerous zone than the Cathedral of Learning because of its now-covered chimney and two mirror-glass buildings.  

Slowly, we humans are figuring this out.  The chimney was easy to fix.  The windows are harder.  

It would help if the pigeon flock moved to a safer location.

(photo of the Software Engineering Institute hall of mirrors on Henry Street by Kate St. John)


Update on Red’s condition:  This morning I saw “Red” eating breakfast on Heinz Chapel steeple while both of his parents watched him.  Like all parents they could tell he wasn’t well and needed some extra attention.  Over at St. Paul’s Cathedral steeple, one of his remaining sisters whined.  She seems fine.  I hope she stays away from those windows!

10 thoughts on “Theories

  1. so it’s at this recessed corner where the SEI “accidents” are happening? What about a sheer net hung from the roof? (Just thinking aloud here)

  2. How about a pergola and some vines? Some window boxes and vines – reference the airport hotel in Orlando, Florida. Or long vertical wires with climbing vines? Or a spray-on or other permanent coating something like they have on the Port Authority buses – perforated so you can still see out (though not as well), but it looks like a solid color or image from the outside. There are interior coatings for windows also – films that have a bronze or gold shade, are still shiny and reflective, but the color is so different the peregrine would never think it was the sky. Also, all interior furniture, artwork, etc. would be protected from UV exposure.

    I used to read my mother’s books that had been hers when she was a child. One of them, circa 1900, had an Amish farmer scrubbing his shiny new buggy with muddy water because it was too “fancy” in it’s new condition. I have never forgotten that image, and I think it is in order here. Even a coating of muddy water would solve the problem. I have often thought of that when driving out the Parkway West and there is a shiny bronze glass office building there creating a blinding glare in the sunlight.

  3. A friend of mine e-mailed this to me about the current situation: “At MIT, there is
    a long glass hallway and many birds crashed into it, so they attached photo negatives of owls to the windows, and the crashes seem to stop.”

  4. Kate, don’t know if you nticed the 2 owl statues that Duquesne Light installed on their bldg nest to the SEI. A coworker told me that when they were first installed the pigeons seemed to disappear but after years of perching in the exact same spot, I guess the pigeons got wise and have returned. Oftentimes you’ll see them sitting beside their stoic friends!

  5. Owl statues and silhouettes of peregrines aren’t going to keep the falcons out of there. The owls may even draw the falcons to the area in the spring because owls steal chicks.

    Maybe they can put some wires overhead with vines on them, it would look good and make the area shaded and cool?

  6. This news just in from Anne Marie Bosnyak: “I think we won’t have to worry about the SEI [windows] for a few days at least. They are setting up trailers and scenery (I think) to film some scenes for the latest Batman movie. Hopefully all the activity and new structures will frighten the pigeons away for a few days.”

  7. Hurrah! That’s great news. Thanks for the update Anne Marie. I’ll have to go check that out and look for the owl statues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *