2 December 2015
This proclamation is made in monarchies when the old queen dies and a new one succeeds her. It’s a fitting announcement at the Cathedral of Learning today, for the old peregrine Queen Dorothy is gone and a new Queen is in her place, at least for now.
Late yesterday morning Peter Bell told me the Pitt snapshot camera was dead. Instead I found it very much alive with nearly a hundred motion detection images in less than two days. They were triggered by very frequent peregrine courtship at the nest: three times on November 30 and eight times on December 1.
Such intense “getting to know you” is highly unusual at this time of year and unheard of with an old mated pair. Based on behavior I knew at least one of them was new to the site. Many photos and archives later, I confirmed that E2 is still here, he is courting a new female, and Dorothy is gone.
“The Queen is dead.”
Well actually, Dorothy simply disappeared but we know she won’t come back. Art McMorris, PGC’s Peregrine Coordinator, affirmed that the presence of a new female at the nest means Dorothy is gone.
We never saw a fight, nor even a challenger. Dorothy and E2 were both active in October and flew together on November 2 but the rest of November was quiet with only one peregrine on campus — or none — and no certainty that the one bird was Dorothy.
In any case, Dorothy’s disappearance is no surprise. Adult peregrines live about 12 years in the wild but Dorothy was 16.5 going on 17 — quite elderly. Like an 85-90 year old grandmother, we loved her and will miss her but we’re not shocked that she’s gone.
“Long live the Queen!”
The new Queen is a younger bird with a Black/Green coded band and a green USFWS band. After I read her bands I enlisted Peter to examine them too(*). Here are his two archive snapshots from Nov 30 with a blow-up of the bands.
Yes, these bands are 69/Z. This bird is “Hope,” the resident female at the Tarentum Bridge since 2010 who hatched at the Benjamin Harrison Bridge in Hopewell, Virginia in 2008.
Why did Hope leave Tarentum? We don’t know but here are a few ideas:
- When male peregrines are alone on territory they fly an advertisement that says “I’m looking for a mate.” The Cathedral of Learning is so tall that Hope could have seen E2’s message from the skies of Tarentum.
- Hope has not had great success in her six years at the Tarentum Bridge. She raised 4 young — two in 2012 and two in 2014 — but half the time she’s been alone with no mate. Last year a young male showed up, but they didn’t nest.
- The Cathedral of Learning is one of the best peregrine nesting sites in Pittsburgh. We’ve seen another Pittsburgh “bridge bird” move to the other best site: Dori left a bridge for the Gulf Tower.
- I wonder if Hope got tired of bald eagles. 😉 Read Mary Ann Thomas’ TribLive article to see what I mean.
And yet, though Hope and E2 seem to be hitting it off she might not stay. Art McMorris says it’s too early to know if she’ll stick around for the nesting season. Right now she’s getting to know E2 and the Cathedral of Learning but she has plenty of time to change her mind between now and next April.
So, Tarentum peregrine watchers, keep your eyes peeled. Hope might come back.
(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning)
Footnotes and History:
- Here are some stories of 69/Z’s life. She’s named Hope for her birthplace, Hopewell, Virginia.
- Hope’s life story and no nest in 2010
- No nest in 2011
- Hope’s two youngsters in 2012
- No nest in 2013
- Banding Day for Hope’s two youngsters in 2014
- No nest in 2015
- Steve Gosser photographed Hope at the Tarentum Bridge on November 21, 2015, see below.
- Hope and E2 court at the nest on Nov 30, 2015 in this WildEarth video-mark. “jerseyme” labeled the clip “Dorothy and E2” because no one knew that Dorothy was gone. In fact, this video is our first indication.
- Media Coverage of Hope’s move to Oakland: Peregrine falcon soap opera developing over W. PA skies
- In the end, Hope turned out to be Hopeless because she killed and ate most of her young just before they hatched. None of her offspring were ever seen nesting.