When A Nest Is Too Low

Downtown peregrine fledgling perches on 7th floor deck, 10 June 2021 (photo by Brian Johnston)

11 June 2021

After a peregrine chick makes its first flight it waits for hours in its new location, apparently regrouping. When it flies again it will flap along the cliff and land on a slightly lower ledge, then flap again to another ledge, and so on. Many hours later it figures out how to circle out and fly up.

Lower ledges are very important. In the 24 hours after first flight peregrine fledglings don’t have the upper body strength to make a powerful flap and become airborne. At high peregrine nest sites with open airspace and lots of lower ledges, the chicks rarely land on the ground where they become vulnerable to predators and cars.

In Downtown Pittsburgh the Third Avenue nest site is so low and tucked away that fledglings land on the ground every year. Thankfully, passersby call the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523 to rescue the downed birds.

Yesterday morning at Third Avenue two peregrine chicks were at the nest opening. One had fledged.

Nearby workmen showed me the fledgling on a railing four stories up, facing a narrow space between buildings with a view of Lawrence Hall across Third Avenue. Flying from this location is no problem for an adult peregrine. The youngster waited for enlightenment.

Downtown peregrine fledgling perched on the railing, 4 floors up, 10 June 2021, 10:30a (photo by Kate St. John)
Closeup of Downtown peregrine fledgling perched on the railing, 10 June 2021, 10:30a (photo by Kate St. John)

At this point any action by humans would have frightened the fledgling and guaranteed his failure. We humans stayed away so he could figure it out with help from his experienced parents, Terzo and Dori.

Eventually the youngster will make a move. My guess is he will land on the ground, be rescued by Point Park Police and the PA Game Commission, and be taken to the rescue porch where he can start over.

You might be asking: Isn’t the Gulf Tower a better place for these birds to nest? Yes but not right now.

On 19 May a transformer blew in the Gulf Tower basement and started a 5-alarm fire with smoke billowing from the roof. The building was condemned by City of Pittsburgh building inspectors last week. Here’s the news.

Life is full of challenges for all of us. This bird will get through it.

If you see a downed peregrine, call the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523.

(photos by Brian Johnston and Kate St. John)

4 thoughts on “When A Nest Is Too Low

  1. I’ve seen young hawks sitting in the lower branches of trees in my back yard. They stay there for a short time, and then I don’t see them there again. One year we had one perching on the railing of the deck, while his parents called to him. After having an ecstatic splash in the bird bath, the juvenile made it to a higher tree branch and eventually flew away. I figured they were young birds making their first flight, and your story seems to confirm that.

  2. Question? Is this male Terzo the one that got rejected by Morella. I am sorry i know it doesn’t belong here, but I am curious
    Thank you.

    1. Terzo is the male who used to live at the Cathedral of Learning. Last year he and another male, Ecco, were vying for “ownership” of the Cathedral territory and Morela’s attention. This year in early February Ecco drove Terzo away. … Maybe Terzo’s loyalty was already divided between Pitt and Downtown and we didn’t know it.

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