Is There A Challenger At The Pitt Peregrine Nest?

Morela at the Pitt peregrine nest, 21 March, 2:07pm (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

22 March 2023

See Status Updates at the end.

As I mentioned yesterday morning Morela was looking as if she’d lay an egg any minute, but yesterday everything changed. After days of lounging at the nest and crouching over the scrape Morela was barely on camera at all. When she returned in the afternoon she looked vigilant. Meanwhile Ecco spent 2.5 hours waiting at the nest, sometimes watching the sky.

What’s up with Morela? Why isn’t she trying to lay an egg? I think she may have a challenger who’s keeping her busy.

From just after midnight on 21 March through 7:00am 22 March (today) this timelapse video shows how both peregrines are absent from the nest. I’ve provided a description of the action below the video, some illustrated with snapshots.

Activities on the video:

  1. Morela is at the nest nearly continuously on Tuesday 21 March from midnight to 4:50am when she jumped to the roof, still present at the nest though not visible.
  2. Morela looks relaxed for an hour at the nest 9:50-10:57am. Then she disappears.
  3. Ecco takes her place for more than an hour 10:59am-12:02pm. Ecco has a bright orange beak and legs compared to Morela’s pale yellow.
  4. Ecco stops in briefly and watches the sky.
  5. Morela’s back at the nest 2:03pm-3:32pm, for about 90 minutes, but she looks sleek and vigilant, not egg-y at all.
  6. Ecco returns for 90 minutes, 5:29p-6:56pm.
  7. Neither bird is at the nest after that.

The photos are numbered to match what they illustrate.

#1. Morela is on the roof during the early morning hours of 21 March.

Morela on roof of nestbox before dawn on 21 March 2023, 6am (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

#3. Ecco has bright orange beak and legs.

Ecco has bright orange beak and legs

#3 and #5 Morela’s beak and legs are yellow, not orange. At 2:00pm she looks sleek and vigilant, not egg-y at all.

Morela looks vigilant, 21 March 2023, 14:44 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

#4 Ecco stops in briefly and watches the sky.

Ecco watches the sky. Who’s up there? (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Neither bird is at the nest today which indicates again that there’s probably a challenger.

Fingers crossed that the intruder is driven off soon. Go, Morela!

UPDATE on Morela and Ecco as of Friday 24 March 2023, 5:50 am:

  • Morela’s most recent appearance at the nest: Tues 21 March at 3:32pm.
  • Morela last seen: Vigilant on Heinz Chapel scaffolding Wed 22 March at 4:14pm.
  • Ecco last seen: Watchful at the nest, Thurs 23 March at 5:13pm.
  • The Challenger: Has not been seen yet (which is good news).

My conclusion from these sightings: The challenger is female. Morela is keeping her away the Cathedral of Learning but has not vanquished her yet. The challenger has not won either.

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

11 thoughts on “Is There A Challenger At The Pitt Peregrine Nest?

  1. Oh dear, this is sad news to read. Let’s hope that our resident pair continues to claim the Cathedral site as its home, wins any challenge, and Morela gets to laying eggs pronto!

  2. Oh this is not good. Question….could she have laid the egg somewhere else to “dispose” of it rather than become egg bound, or lay it at the nest in the midst of a challenge. Twenty years I have been watching these beautiful creatures, and it seems there is always a new challenge. I’m with you 200%. Go Morela!!

    1. Kathy, in my experience they don’t lay it elsewhere during a challenge. We’ll just have to wait & see though.

  3. There was big drama in the skies over Shadyside Presbyterian at Westminster and Amberson late afternoon today — lots of swooping, diving, feinting and indignant screeching between at least three, and maybe four, large soaring birds. I know next to nothing about birds, so I’m not certain these were Peregrines, but they were definitely birds of prey. And they were not happy with one another. It sounded a lot like Real Housewives only avian. ? If it was Morela and Ecco, they appeared to taking on a serious confrontation.

    1. MJ, Thanks for the update. It’s hard to saw which birds you saw but I do know that at 4:15pm Morela was on the Heinz Chapel steeple scaffolding and Ecco was on camera at the nest. I know there’s a red-tailed hawk pair that is claiming that part of Shadyside. Maybe another pair showed up. Red-tailed hawks are known for their screaming.

  4. It’s so sad to see the nest empty when there should be egg laying occurring. I hope things resolve themselves soon and we can have a successful nesting season this year.

  5. I saw the red-tailed hawk pair on Wednesday in front of Western Psych at 4:30. Wow were they screaming and flying around.

  6. Poor Ecco, he wants the nesting to start. He was in the scrape just after 4 pm, left for a few minutes, then came back and called for couple of minutes (with no response) before leaving again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *