February is a great month for watching raptors in Pittsburgh. Peregrine falcons are courting and bald eagles are already nesting. This week was especially full of raptor news. Here are just four of our many pairs.
First things first: Peregrine falcons!
Peregrines love good weather — don’t we all — so they were particularly active on Tuesday February 20, a single sunny day in the midst of snow, sleet, rain and fog.
Tarentum Bridge Peregrines:
At Tarentum, Steve Gosser found the resident female peregrine perched on a lamppost. Though she isn’t banded she’s easy to recognize because her breast is very dotted. This is quite different from her mate who has an almost clear white breast and is banded Black/Green 48/BR (Westinghouse Bridge, 2014).
Above, she looks regal on the lamppost. Below, Steve whistled to attract her attention and she gave him the “Who’s whistling at me!?” look. Many of you saw this photo when I shared Steve’s post on Facebook. It’s the perfect Peregrine Attitude shot.
Neville Island Bridge Peregrines:
There was a lot of Peregrine Attitude at the Neville Island I-79 Bridge when Karen Lang and I stopped by on Tuesday.
We found the female in a tree, preening in the sun but it wasn’t long before the male flew in and mated with her. (Yes, my digiscoped photo is awful. )
Afterward it looked like the peregrines weren’t paying attention but the female was alert for trouble. She flew over our heads in pursuit of a raven, then perched on the topmost arch and the pair mated again. This is serious Peregrine Attitude, as in: “We own the place! There are two of us here!”
Minutes later the female pumped upriver to chase away an immature female peregrine. After the ladies flew out of sight, the male circled up and away as well.
I was able to see through my scope that the male is banded Black/Green, possibly the same male as in prior years: “Beau” Black/Green 05/S (Pitt, 2010). However I couldn’t see any bands on the female, no dark spot like the Black/Red bands on Magnum, the resident female of prior years. This female deserves another look. I wonder if Magnum is gone.
Cathedral of Learning Peregrines:
Courtship is underway for Hope and Terzo at the Cathedral of Learning. Yesterday, February 21, she called for him to bow with her at the nest. We can’t hear her but people inside the Cathedral of Learning probably did. She is one loud bird.
The pair bowed for less than half a minute and then they were gone.
Watch the Pitt peregrines on the National Aviary Falconcam. Expect their first egg next month.
Hays Bald Eagles:
It’s been a busy week for the Hays bald eagles. They’ve been on eggs since February 12.
Keep up with the Hays bald eagles at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania’s Hays Bald Eaglecam.
(credits: Tarentum peregrine photos by Steve Gosser. Neville Island peregrine by Kate St. John. Cathedral of Learning peregrines from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh. Bald eagle photos from ASWP’s Hays bald eagle camera.)