Many of you have asked about the status of Dori and Louie’s peregrine chicks, taken from their Downtown Pittsburgh nest on 8 May 2018. I have no news of the chicks, but I do know the PA Game Commission planned to hack them at an undisclosed location. Based on the chicks’ age, I think this would have happened in early June.
What is peregrine hacking?
Hacking is a falconry term for the process of introducing captive chicks without parents to independent free flight. The Peregrine Recovery Program used this method to restore peregrines to the wild after they went extinct east of the Mississippi. Every wild peregrine in the eastern U.S. is descended from one or more hacked birds.
The Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia has four decades of experience in hacking peregrines. Please read their excellent description of hacking, complete with photos from their program.
This brief description, partly drawn from ccbbirds.org, includes National Park Service photos from the Shenandoahs and New River Gorge.
A hack box, above, is prepared and placed on the cliff. It has:
- Grill-work on the cliff side so the chicks can see the sky and valley,
- A door that opens on a safe ledge for wing exercising,
- A chute for delivering food to the chicks.
Young peregrines are placed in the box after banding and before they are old enough to fly. The box is kept closed at first for the chicks’ protection from great horned owls and other predators.
The chicks are fed using the chute. (They don’t see humans feeding them.)
When they are old enough to ledge walk, the door is left open so they can walk out and exercise their wings. They are still fed using the chute.
Eventually the chicks fly and learn to hunt. Food is delivered to the hack box until they are self sufficient.
When the fledglings are self sufficient they fly away (disperse).
We know they disperse far. Three hacked birds from the Center for Conservation Biology program have come to Pittsburgh to nest.