Peregrine Update, June 5

Hope leaves with prey while a juvenile lunges from behind, 2 June 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Hope leaves with prey while a juvenile lunges from behind, 2 June 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

Peregrine nesting season is in transition.  Some nests have fledged, others are still in progress.  Here’s an update from last week’s most active peregrine sites in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

Peregrine watching was exciting near Heinz Chapel last weekend.

Peter Bell’s video above (Pitt Peregrines Facebook page) shows how close the birds were. As he says, “The challenge of photographing peregrines … they’re comfortable up high and far away. This is Hope on Heinz Chapel – what is considered extremely low, about 250 feet up.”

Peter snapped the top photo around 3:30p on Saturday (June 2) as Hope flew away from two aggressive juveniles on the Heinz Chapel roof.  She was carrying prey but she wouldn’t let them have it because it was part of her lesson plan.  Ignoring the lesson, they rushed her.

I joined Peter at 4p and we walked — sometimes ran — to follow the action in the air. Overhead two really loud juveniles whined for food, flew at breakneck speed, and chased their mother.  On the ground, wedding after wedding emerged from Heinz Chapel and posed for photos by the lawn.

Eventually the two dramas nearly collided. Dangling prey, Hope flew from Heinz Chapel toward the Cathedral of Learning urging a juvenile to flip upside down to receive it.  He flipped, she dropped it, and … he missed!  Good thing it hit the lawn and instead of the bridesmaids!

The two youngsters fledged May 29 and 31, spent the first few days landing on the Cathedral of Learning, then graduated to Heinz Chapel and Alumni Hall.  By yesterday afternoon, June 4, the entire family was hard to find.  They’re further away from home as the parents teach the young how to hunt.

 

Westinghouse Bridge over Turtle Creek, Monongahela watershed, Allegheny County

Young peregrine ledge walking at Westinghouse Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
Young peregrine ledge walking at Westinghouse Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

John English and I visited the Westinghouse Bridge around noon on Sunday June 3 and found the juveniles ledge walking and shouting at their mother, “Feed me!”  We eventually saw the entire family — both adults flying and three juveniles on the arch.

In the photo below, a juvenile has his head turned away to look at his mother. You can see the “eye spots” on the back of his head that are meant to fool predators.

With his head turned away to look at his mother, juvenile peregrine shows the "eye spots" on the back of his head, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
With his head turned away to look at his mother, juvenile peregrine shows the “eye spots” on the back of his head, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

 

Elizabeth Bridge, Monongahela River, Allegheny County

Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

John and I then drove up the Monongahela River to look for peregrines at the Elizabeth Bridge.  From our vantage point at the waterfront we saw two adults and heard a youngster begging from the nest area but we didn’t see any juveniles.  What we didn’t know is that a juvenile had flown recently because …

Around 2pm a young peregrine was seen on the road in the center of the bridge’s northbound lane but traffic in the construction zone was too intense to stop (reported here by Walter Marchewka).  Fortunately Philip Tyler was able to retrieve the bird and take him to rehab. The youngster hit his head quite hard and is being treated for head trauma. (Click here for Philip Tyler’s report on Facebook.)

UPDATE, Tuesday afternoon, June 5:  Sadly another juvenile peregrine was found dead on the bridge deck (road surface) this morning.  Game Warden Doug Bergman retrieved its body.

 

Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny River, Allegheny-Westmoreland Counties

View of Tarentum Birdge nestbox area, June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)
View of Tarentum Birdge nestbox area, June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)

Amber VanStrien has good news from the Tarentum Bridge last weekend.  Using her zoom camera from the nearby upstream park she photographed two chicks moving around in the nest box.

Peregrine nestlings at Tarentum, June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)
Peregrine nestlings at Tarentum, 3 June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)

If you’d like to see this family for yourself, click here for a map.

 

(photos by Peter Bell, Pitt Peregrines on Facebook; John English, Pittsburgh Falconuts on Facebook; Amber VanStrien)

7 thoughts on “Peregrine Update, June 5

  1. any sightings of Dori and Louie downtown, Kate? I know they are not active now that chicks were removed. Also, any update on those chicks and whether they have been released yet from HAR in Verona? Thanks for your thoughts.

    1. Judith, very little to report. Lori Maggio saw one of the adults perched on Oxford Center on May 31. No news about the chicks.

  2. The baby falcons have been hanging outside my window screaming, eating, and flying the past few days making for exciting and distracting workdays! I’ve taken a few pics on my cell phone. 🙂

  3. Hi Kate, I’ve seen you mention the downtown nest being too low. Isn’t the Tarentum box too low as well, and being over water, are the falcon chicks there doomed to drown?

    1. Stephanie, … not too low. The Tarentum Bridge nestbox is in the best possible place for that bridge. Prior nesting pairs nested in cubbyholes in the bridge structure which meant that fledging birds had no place ledge-walk and practice flapping so they launched directly out of the cubbyhole into the river. In years when young were banded at Tarentum, the PA Game Commission put the chicks at this location after banding and the young fledged successfully — much better success than any other location on this bridge.

  4. It’s too bad that the parents can’t realize that there is no place for the young to exercise when they build their nests in the bridge superstructure. Did the game commission band the chicks that were taken from downtown? Do they band fledglings that are rescued since they know what nest they came from?

    Our house has become a favorite nesting place. Last year we had an eastern phoebe nest above our front door, and a mourning dove nest on the shelves on our back porch. This year a robin built a nest on top of an outdoor curtain that we have tied to a post on our front porch (the chicks are about ready to fledge), carolina wrens nested inside our porch roof and they are already gone, and a cardinal has just built a nest and laid eggs in a tangle of rose bushes behind our house, so close to a window that we can see into the nest. We’ll have to put something over the window because when we move around in the house it disturbs her and she leaves the nest.

    It’s weird that birds will nest right on top of places where humans live, even though they are afraid of us!

    1. Banding peregrines: PGC bands them when they can but most staff are not licensed to band peregrines.

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