Downtown Peregrines Found!

Peregrine nest, Downtown Pittsburgh, 19 May 2015 (photo by Larry Walsh)
Peregrine with chicks in background, Downtown Pittsburgh, 19 May 2015 (photo by Larry Walsh)

22 May 2015

Late on Tuesday PGC’s Peregrine Coordinator Art McMorris and I got an email from Larry Walsh, Pittsburgh Principal & COO of Rugby Realty at the Gulf Tower, “Are you aware that the Peregrine (presumably the one from Gulf) has a nest with babies?”

My gosh, Larry has found them!

It turns out that he was visiting an office across town and the staff said, “We have a peregrine family near us.”  He thought they must be mistaken until he saw the birds. The peregrines and their nestlings are well known and loved by the entire office.  The nest was only a secret this long by accident because the staff didn’t know anyone was looking for it.

On Wednesday morning Larry introduced me to the staff and the viewing zone.  Using binoculars I read the parents’ bands and confirmed that they are indeed Dori and Louie from the Gulf Tower with three nestlings that hatched on May 6.

Dori with three chicks, 20 May 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)
Dori with three chicks, 20 May 2015 (photo by Kate St. John)

The nest site is perfect with shelter, deep gravel, and no human intrusion but it has one enormous flaw.  It is only on the 7th floor — way too low for the nestlings to fledge successfully.  They will surely land on the street and will only survive with the help of Fledge Watch volunteers.

Right now, while Art McMorris is figuring out if the nestlings can be banded, I am purposely vague about the nest location and the wonderful people I met on Wednesday.  Soon, however, I’ll tell you where it is because this peregrine family desperately needs Fledge Watch volunteers on the street, June 10 to 20!

Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more news including beautiful photos from Matthew Digiacomo.

(photos by Larry Walsh and Kate St. John)

39 thoughts on “Downtown Peregrines Found!

    1. Tom, this year’s nest at Pitt is unusual for so many reasons. Dorothy is old, the chick has no siblings, the weather is alternately too hot or too cold. I can’t tell what is going on but we will learn a lot when the chick is given a health check on Banding Day.

  1. Awesome! I work on the 32nd floor of the PPG tower and saw a peregrine soaring past our windows the other day. Wonder if it was them?

  2. Thank you for sharing the good news about Dori and Louie. Hoping that the fledge watchers can protect the little ones once they’re ready to fly.

  3. I’ve been so curious! Interested in Nestwatch. Do you need to be able to drive or will help come to you if needed? I think I’ll look for the orientation session and see if I can assist.

    1. Heather, this is the ultimate in bus-oriented Fledge Watch. I plan to take the bus myself.

  4. So cool! Thanks for sharing. I think we’ll totally do fledge watch. My husband and I take the 10th street bridge to and from work each day, and we always look for the falcons–they’re often hanging out on top of the bridge. Would these be the downtown falcons? What about if there’s two of them there at once (which sometimes there are)? Could they be two from the same couple, or wouldn’t one of them need to be sitting on the nest?
    Anyhow, thanks!

    1. Liz, I’ve heard that a pair of red-tailed hawks have claimed the 10th St Bridge. The peregrines are in the heart of Downtown.

  5. Awesome news! I am planning to be there for Fledge Watch – here’s hoping for a successful fledge for all 3!

  6. Can you please explain more about what will happen when the babies fledge. Will they land in the street and then need to be picked up and then placed back up in the nest area to attempt better and higher flights? I guess I just need the height problem explained to me. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Heather Myer, here is info on what chicks do when they learn to fly:

      The first time a young peregrine flies it needs to be up high and have an updraft so it can land at an intermediate level. In the first 24 hours of flight it cannot flap its wings hard and take off from the ground. At only 70 feet up (roughly 7 floors) it doesn’t have enough distance to avoid landing on the ground.
      When a young peregrine lands on the ground it just stands there because it can’t go anywhere. On a city street it will be hit & killed.
      Fledge watchers guard the chick, call for help. The chick is then delivered to a *high* perch where it rests and tries again. The nest downtown is too low so these chicks will be placed on a high nearby roof.

  7. Kate, I don’t know how else to reach you. Dorothy’s chick is stuck on his back. It’s Friday 5/22 2pm now. He has been laying like that unable to roll over or bend forward to get up for at least 10 minutes. He was taking food in that position, but he seems to be getting exhausted from his efforts and he is still stuck. Can something be done? Dorothy doesn’t know what to do

    1. Nathalie, in my experience this is not normal behavior for a 12 day old chick but he/she will get a health check on banding day. Nothing to be done until then.

  8. Kate, is the abnormal behavior that the chick can’t get up, or that Dorothy is unable to get him up. It’s terribly difficult to watch….

    1. Pa Gal, the abnormal behavior is on the chick’s part. It looks like a birth defect. Dorothy is an experienced mother and is doing what she can. She will do what is right for peregrines. Her offspring must become strong precision flyers & hunters to survive in the wild. She & E2 will teach this chick to do that if he/she is able.
      (I am being realistic here…) If there was no camera we would not be learning from this. If it is upsetting you, you can always close your browser. We will learn more on Banding Day when the chick gets a health check.

  9. Thanks, Kate, for the quick reply. That’s what I was afraid of, and yes, my browser is off now. I’m praying for the best.

  10. Saw the same thing yesterday afternoon with the chick on its back. Dorothy worked to get it back upright. This was also in the midst of a feeding.

  11. I’m a working woman but I’d like to help with the fledge watch as my schedule allows. At least I’ll already be Downtown.

  12. This is so great to hear Kate. Wish I still lived in PA to help with fledge watch. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  13. I can help with fledge watch when the time comes. Just let me know. So happy to know they are around!

  14. As for Dori’s choice of nest sites, this one is even worse that the one near Point Park University. Wasn’t that one on the 12th floor? Dunno what her deal is. Could she possibly remember that her chicks didn’t get taken away for a few hours when she wasn’t nesting at the Gulf Tower and that’s why she abandoned it again?

    As for Dorothy and E2’s chick, I also saw it fall over on its back yesterday (Friday). Dorothy was standing partly behind partly over it and the chick appeared to be trying to preen then just kind of fell backwards so it was kinda propped up against Dorothy’s lower chest.

  15. Thanks Kate lots of information on chick and adult behavior you and other commentors. Thank Larry and the observers downtown. Is that the same Larry Walsh that writes stories for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about the bike trail and other outdoor issues? Haven’t seen any articles from him in quite a while. I probably missed them due to not checking newspaper on line for some time.

  16. I have been watching this chick of Dorothys and comparing with other chicks its age.
    today it is getting around better than yesterday and yesterday better than the day before. I am not concerned as some of you are. Dorothy has been constantly stuffing it under her and has not given it space yesterday and today it has had more space. it is too big to be brooded .

    Have you seen the size of crops it gets. I just take one day at a time

    and today it fell over on back and got back over after a bit. It just needs to get strength. And I think we will see that in next few days. I just love this wee guy.

    my fingers are crossed

  17. 2 sites in Canada, the falcons chose a lower building to nest. One was a 4th story and all fledged fine from there, (a few rescues, which is normal) and Quest and Kendal, (now Skye) are nesting on a low building also with no problems fledging. It can be done but in this case much traffic below. I wish them all great flights!!

  18. Was looking at the Gulf Tower cam the other day just for the heck of it (why it’s still streaming, I have no idea) and had a thought. I saw that the nest box is once again completely covered by vegetation and was wondering if this cover could be factoring into Louie and Dori’s decision to once again abandon the site. I figure that on a natural cliff nest there would be little to no vegetation in the area and that all the vegetation in the GT next probably attracts bugs. Maybe if they replace the gravel and do something to permanently eradicate the weeds Louie and Dori will come back.

    1. J, I wish it were so but I think it’s really that they were disturbed a couple of years ago and now they are easily spooked at Gulf. Plus they remember that the banders come to the Gulf nest & not elsewhere.

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