What Is Hope’s Legacy?

Terzo and Hope with 2 chicks, 3 eggs, 23 April 2019, 3:35pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Every year Hope, the mother peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning, kills and eats some of her chicks as they are hatching. Among all the peregrine families on camera this behavior is quite abnormal.

This spring some of you wondered if Hope’s behavior would be passed down to her female offspring. The way to find out is to watch one of her daughters nesting on camera (the behavior cannot be seen otherwise).

Are any of her daughters nesting? Here’s the status of Hope’s fledged offspring:

  1. How many young has Hope fledged during her nesting years so far, 2010-2018? 10 fledglings: 4 at Tarentum Bridge plus 6 at Pitt.
  2. How many of her offspring are banded? 8. (We can only re-identify her young if they are banded.)
  3. Subtract known deaths. Of 8 banded offspring, 3 banded are known dead, 5 banded are presumed alive. (*)
  4. How many of the living are female? 3
  5. How many of her offspring have been reported nesting? NONE
  6. How many of her offspring have been seen anywhere since they left Pittsburgh? NONE

In Hope’s nine years of nesting (2010-2018), she has averaged only 1.1 fledgling per year. None of them has ever been seen again.

By contrast Dorothy, the previous female peregrine at Pitt, averaged 3.0 fledglings per year. (If you don’t count her three elderly unproductive years her average was 3.7.) At least 12 of Dorothy’s kids went on to nest in the Great Lakes region, many on camera. Dorothy has children, grandchildren, great-grands and probably great-great-grands by now. She was a matriarch.

What is Hope’s legacy? So far as we know, nothing. We do know that none of her banded daughters are nesting on camera.

p.s. Hope’s potential of fledglings/year is higher than Dorothy’s. Hope averages 4.25 eggs per year at Pitt; Dorothy averaged 3.93. Hope has fewer fledglings/year because half of her hatchlings do not survive the hatching period.

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

(*) Living offspring: We will never know the fate of Hope’s 2 unbanded offspring because we cannot identify them. If they are both alive then Hope has 7 living offspring. Due to the 60% mortality rate among young peregrines, it is statistically likely that Hope has only 4 living offspring from 2010-2018, not 7.

.Details:  Hope: 10 fledgings/8 years = 1.1     Dorothy: 43 fledgings/14 years = 3.0 –or– 41 fledglings/11 years = 3.7

18 thoughts on “What Is Hope’s Legacy?

  1. So sad. We don’t get to choose who nests where, so we have to take the disappointments with the joy, and “Hope” for happier outcomes in the future. Thanks again, Kate, for your commentary and photos.

  2. Thanks, Kate, for the info. Your blog reminds us of what an amazing peregrine falcon Dorothy was. It is good to know that there are many of her offspring still out there and contributing to the PEFA population. They inherited some fantastic genes from the queen of the Cathedral. Gosh, I miss her so much….

  3. I really miss Dorothy. I remember her taking care of the baby that was rescued and ultimately passed…..I was so emotionally invested that it was rough to get over. It really is still a privilege to watch this and all of the wildlife cameras…..I try and remember we are watching their private lives.

  4. It certainly isn’t Hope’s fault, obviously, but I think it’s fair to say we were very spoiled by Dorothy over the years. What a gift she was to observe. -C.

    1. Kristin, Hope’s banded young from Tarentum and first 2 years of Pitt youngsters are old enough to nest. Peregrines will even nest at 1 year old, though that’s uncommon. So 3 of the 5 are old enough to nest, maybe all 5.

  5. We just don’t know where her offspring are. They could be adding to the falcon population as we have this discussion. That is the way I am going to think about it.
    I was watching her shield this year’s chicks from this mornings rain. She is a good mom to the chicks that survive.

    1. Scott, Hope’s mate at Tarentum (father of the fledglings) was never identified. Hope’s parents are on record (I don’t know who they were but there are records in Virginia). I am curious why you want to know.

    2. Kate, Just curiosity on my part. I’m interested in getting the bigger picture, or what I think is the bigger picture. I wonder how Hope’s siblings have fared, as well as her parents. I wonder if a different mate at Tarentum affected Hope’s success rate. The male does supply some DNA, so Hope isn’t solely responsible for the fledge rate. At least that is what someone like me, a complete beginner to all of this, thinks. I always enjoy what i learn on your blog!

  6. Hope still has quite a few more years to raise more young but I know she can’t come close to the total of Dorothy’s success. I do however think it’s unfair to compare the two. Dorothy was Dorothy and Hope is Hope. I only watched Dorothy for one year when she had the sickly baby that you called Silver and I thought she was a wonderful mother and did her best to raise him given all of the problems that he had.

    Hope has raised 10 fledglings so far, and you said that 3 of them are known to have died after they fledged, which leaves 7. If the 2 cute little chicks that she is standing guard over right now grow to fledge that would make her total 9 – so far.

    I do believe that Hope’s legacy, although a bit tarnished by what she does when the eggs are hatching – which we truly don’t understand – is that she is a good mother to her surviving chicks and does her very best to feed them, care for them and raise them to fledge and to go off on their own. And in that regard her and Terzo are both doing a really good job and that is what I will always remember them for.

    Since no one knows where Hope’s offspring have flown off to after they fledge, unless they nest at a scrape with a camera, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist out there somewhere.

    1. Carol, please see the revised text and footnote. The math in step 3 about living offspring was counting banded living offspring. The footnote explains more.

  7. I think it may be unfair to compare the fate of Hope’s fledgings to Dorothy’s. Peregrine population has been steadily increasing everywhere. In PA, it seems the number of known nesting pairs had nearly recovered to pre-DDT levels by 2013 (https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/EndangeredandThreatened/Pages/PeregrineFalcon.aspx). It may be more difficult for today’s young falcons to find good nesting sites where humans can observe them. There aren’t empty nesting boxes around, as far as I know.

    1. Nathalie, I compare Dorothy and Hope because they are the two female peregrines whose history I know best and whose statistics are at my fingertips. There is no intention to be fair or unfair — just factual.

  8. Let’s not forget the two unbanded female (I’m quite sure) fledglings from 2012 at the Tarentum Bridge. They didn’t leave until well into August, so they were very experienced fliers before they “peregrinated”. If alive, they are now 8th year birds, well into their breeding years.

  9. — EDITED —
    This article is offensive to me. Every peregrine is different. They are all amazing. Hope is a good mother to her chicks. YouWe do not know why things happen the way they do with chicks, so lets quit branding her . She is a falcon doing the best she can. .. YouWe guess at what is going on. . I have tried a few times to give a few plausible explanations, but to no avail. just because youwe have not heard of where her chicks are nesting, does not mean they are not raising amazing families. Things have changed drastically over the years. I for one think hopes chicks will be strong an d more than ready to meet what challenges are out there for them(bev)

  10. Just to lighten the mood, I think the Pitt peregrines have taken the saying “to feather the nest” way too literally. They need a good gust of wind to help with the housekeeping.

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