Now That E2 is Gone: Many Questions, A Few Answers

Hope leaving the nest and 3 eggs at dawn, 18 March 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Three eggs now. Hope leaving the nest at dawn, 18 March 2016 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Since learning the tragic news of E2’s death while his mate Hope is laying eggs, we have all wondered what will happen at the Cathedral of Learning nest.  The situation is more poignant this morning; Hope laid a third egg last night.

Many of you have asked questions about E2’s death, Hope’s present circumstances, and Hope’s future.  Here are your questions and a few answers.  As you will see sometimes the answer is, “We don’t know.”

  • What happened to E2?
    • First, if you missed the news of E2’s death, click here.  As I mentioned yesterday, his injuries indicate he was hit broadside on his right.  No one witnessed the accident, but based on his injuries and other clues my guess is that he swooped low over the street and was hit by a car.
  • I know death is a fact of life, but is it a norm that an entire peregrine family is wiped out in 8 months?
    • The death of Dorothy, E2 and last year’s chick is an unusual combination of age and accident.  Dorothy was elderly and likely to die within the year. Peregrine fledgling mortality is 60% (that is normal).  The last nestling died because he was handicapped at birth due to Dorothy’s advanced age at conception. E2’s death is a surprise at this moment but at age 11 he was heading for late middle age.  The family is bigger than those three birds.  Dorothy fledged 43 young, 21 of them were E2’s.  The family lives on in their many descendants.
  • Will Hope lay more eggs?
    • She will until her system is clear of them.  Egg laying is stimulated by courtship and the presence of her mate.  We do not know how many eggs she had in the pipeline up until E2’s disappearance.
  • When will Hope begin to hunt on her own?
    • E2 cached food on the “cliff” for the two of them to eat when hunting was precluded by bad weather. Hope will first eat the cached food. Then she will hunt.
  • Does this mean these eggs won’t be incubated?
    • They probably won’t but it depends on what happens next.  The answer is yes if Hope finds a mate very soon, re-clutches, and incubates all of the eggs.  Otherwise, the answer is likely to be No.  Peregrines “know” (ingrained species knowledge) that their young cannot be incubated and brooded successfully by a single parent.
  • Is it really possible for a ‘single mom’ falcon to raise her chicks alone?
    • Not at this stage in the nesting cycle.  During incubation, one of the adults must always keep the eggs warm.  Because a single parent must hunt for her own food and hunting takes a long time, the eggs will get cold.  If the eggs are not incubated but merely kept from freezing and overheating, incubation can start weeks later and the eggs will hatch.
  • Is/was there an intruder?
    • When a rival for a nest wins the site, the winner and the remaining adult begin courting immediately. No one has reported a second peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning and no one has seen two peregrines courting at the nest. Now that I am back in Pittsburgh (I was traveling this week), I plan to spend time watching the Cathedral of Learning for a second peregrine. I will let you know what I find out.
  • When Hope advertises for a mate, how does that action differ from other peregrine activities?
    • Advertising for a mate includes prominent perching and aerial displays described in the Courtship list at Peregrine FAQs.  Making the moves alone means “I’m available.” However, I’m sure there are additional actions and subtle nuances I don’t know about.
  • What are the odds of an unattached male peregrine being in the vicinity of the Cathedral of Learning in the near future?
    • The odds are good.  There are many males who want a territory and few territories available.


(Hope at the Cathedral of Learning nest with 3 eggs, pre-dawn March 18,2016.  The image is black-and-white and the eggs are white because of infrared night light. photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

33 thoughts on “Now That E2 is Gone: Many Questions, A Few Answers

  1. Kate,

    I commend you on your knowledge and ability to answer questions simply, honestly and very understandably.

    Excellent job,


  2. Kate,

    Thank you so much for your prompt and clear answers to all our many questions. I’m so glad you are back in Pittsburgh where you can observe, and I look forward to your updates. I also read the C&C’s Ohio Peregrine page, and I take comfort that last month just 10 days after the female Saint was taken ill and moved to the Medina Raptor Center, another female already had arrived to take her place. I wish Hope the same good luck in finding a new mate quickly. As you told us, peregrines don’t waste time grieving and just get on with life.

    1. Karen, thank you for reminding me of Saint and Bishop’s situation. Fingers crossed for Hope.

    1. Bethany, no. Humans will not step in. This is a wild species, managed by the PA Game Commission. …Aside from that, Hope will find another mate and she/they must not be disturbed or else they will leave Pitt forever and we will never see them on camera. Intervention would wreck everything.

  3. Thanks for the info, Kate. Very much appreciated. Will keep positive thoughts that Hope is able to find a new mate soonest and will keep watching the nest and your blog for updates.

  4. Could food be put close to the nest so hope would not have to go hunt and she could still incubate the eggs??

    1. Patti, no. Peregrines’ hormones to lay eggs and incubate are stimulated by courtship and mating. Without a mate her body will know that it is not a good situation for raising young — and her body is right about that. By the way, people have tried offering food to widowed females and it doesn’t work. Wild peregrines will not eat food left by humans. We are their #1 enemy.

  5. Kate, I’m writing an article about E2’s death for the Pitt News. I would love it if I could talk to you and get your thoughts on all this to put into the article. You can just email me if you want to talk. Thanks!

  6. What is the shadow beside the camera shadow in the picture at this time ? It looks like a bird!

  7. Thank you Kate for the answer. Just sad to watch her sitting on the eggs now. Maybe she will leave when she realizes he is not coming back just was hoping for a good outcome this year after the sad situation last year. Hoping for a miracle for Hope and her eggs!

  8. Poor Cathedral peregrines just can’t catch a break! I was sad about losing Dorothy, but she truly had a long and productive life. The sudden death of E2 is just tragic. I hope that Hope can find a new mate quickly, and that together they successfully hatch this years clutch and have a long couple-ship (if I may use the term), like Erie and Dorothy did.

  9. Hi Kate, Based on all I’m learning after E2’s disappearance, I’m now wondering about Dori and Louie’s disappearance from the Gulf Tower nest box. Is it a valid assumption that if just one of them was injured or has died and therefore could not return to the box, that the other one would still be there? And so the fact that they both have disappeared is likely to mean that they are still together but have chosen to nest elsewhere within their territory? I hope this question is not off-topic. Thanks very much, Karen.

    1. Karen, we don’t know where Dori & Louie are. Therefore we don’t know if they are together.

    1. Patty, I do not know. We’ll have to keep watching to see if she stays on them non-stop. Before incubation begins peregrines cover the eggs with their bellies but do not put their skin directly on the eggs to raise their temperature. This protect the eggs for later incubation. I do not know if Hope has her skin directly on the eggs.

  10. Kate, regarding Dori & Louie, is it possible for someone to check the Gulf Tower roof for any signs or clues of their disappearance? Thanks.

    1. Barb, we are going to check places they nested in the years they didn’t use the Gulf Tower and we are going to search Downtown. There are live peregrines there somewhere. We just don’t know where.

  11. Could you please give a formal blog update about the Gulf Tower situation?

    I had no idea that there were problems at the Gulf Tower nest until I read the comment section here. The last blog mention of Gulf Tower is from the March 13 webcam roundup, and it didn’t sound like there were any problems at Gulf Tower when that post was published. What happened? Are we certain Dori and Louie won’t be nesting there this year?

  12. Thank you so much for your reportage and expertise on these beloved falcons, Kate. We’ll be following this situation; I’m a big fan of the peregrines having worked in the Cathedral and watching their amazing dives from the 16th floor for many years!

  13. Kate, I had a question about the Downtown peregrines. Yesterday at around 2pm I observed 2 Turkey Vultures flying over town. One was high in the sky but the other one was very low circling around PPG Place and then just above it for about 2 minutes. It then flew deeper into town and I lost sight of it behind the buildings. I did not see either Dori or Louie go after either Vulture. I guess it is possible that they didn’t see them but I was wondering if peregrines consider Vultures as intruders?

    1. Lori M, peregrines will attack vultures near their nest but … where is their nest and how close is too close? We don’t know where Dori & Louie are nor if they have a nest. By the way, vultures are common at that end of town in spring & summer.

  14. Kate thanks again for your continued updates. You amaze me on your knowledge of these and other wild creatures. You have opened up a whole new world for me and my family.

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