Kate St. John, 4 January 2023

Fascinated by birds, curious about nature, and addicted to peregrine falcons, I’ve blogged about them at Outside My Window since 2007.

From my window I see a slice of nature in the city of Pittsburgh, but an indoor view is not enough.  I’m outdoors as much as possible, monitoring the peregrine falcons at the University of Pittsburgh and birding in western Pennsylvania and beyond.

Birds are everywhere.  This blog is a window on their world from an avid observer’s point of view.

— Kate St. John

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(photo of Kate St. John by Tom Moeller)

133 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello Kate,
    I just wanted to send a thank you for your blog. I find it so refreshing. I thoroughly enjoy reading it and appreciate the things I learn from it.
    God bless,

  2. Hi Kate,
    absolutely LOVE your blog, pictures, discussions.
    Have you noticed the lack of crows this year? I used to watch thousands fly over my area, spring and fall, morning and evening. Now, nothing.
    Have you had any comments about this phenomenon??
    thanks for any info,

    1. Check the blog entry called “They’re Baaaaack” on October 10. I predict you’ll really notice crows at evening rush hour on Mon Nov 5.

    2. hello Kate
      Check your blog every day. I live in pleasant Hills and watched 40 to 60 crows fly past my home all winter but I have not seen one almost two months now. Wonder what has happened. They were always here on garbage pickup day. I know you have the answer.

    3. Louis, the big flocks of crows are here only in winter. Most of them come from north of Pittsburgh and leave for their home territories in early March. A few resident crows stay in town all year but they get very quiet and secretive during the nesting season — so much so that we don’t notice them. This summer when their young can fly we’ll notice those crows, but still not many until the big flocks come in November.

    4. Hi my name is David Cassidy and am currently in hospital in Manchester England UK.for the last few weeks I’ve been feeding robins in the garden.they are my favourite birds but over the last few days a peregrine falcon as been visiting hunting pigeons.and what a beautiful bird.I feel so priviledged that I’ve seen him two days in the trot now. I now have a picture of one as my screen as we on my phone. the I you so much.

  3. Kate,

    I happened to stumble across your blog a few weeks ago when I was in Pittsburgh for a conference and then began googling you and R. You may not remember me…..I knew R. when he was a student at P. and lived at Cuyler with the gang. I know I have met you a few times….and am happy to see your essence expressed so thoughtfully and beautifully in this blog. Even though I am not a bird fan such as you are, mostly what I responded to was the space between the words in your writing, and then the clarity and simplicity of the highest order in your writing. Well, it’s poetry to me.

    Not really surprising, considering your life’s path…..

    Thanks for this beauty in the world.

    Linda N.

  4. Hello Kate,

    I teach Field Biology at Seneca Valley Senior High. I just found your blog while searching for Bald Eagle sightings in Western PA (I saw one in Harmony today near the high school–first time in my life to see one in this area!!!).

    This information and the photos are FABULOUS!!! I can’t wait to use this in class.

    Thanks so much!


  5. Hi Kate….

    I have just found your blog and ‘site’ through researching Peregrine Falcons.

    I have been overwhelmed with the high standard of photography and the information you provide…

    I am a keen bird watcher and in particular a ‘raptor-watcher’… Based in the North Downs area of Surrey, UK, we have Buzzards, Sparrow hawks, Kestrels, occasionally, Marsh Harriers and Red Kites….amongst others..

    The Peregrines I follow are those permanently domiciled atop Chichester Cathedral, Sussex UK. The Web Cam is amazing and below in the cloister gardens, the RSPB has set up a great viewing station with scopes and wide screen viewing…You can find the site online for viewing later in the season.

    Speaking of Cams.. Loch of the lowes webcam – Scottish Wildlife Trust..is amazing and features Osprey and others..

    This time of the year, we are all watching the Migrant waders coming in to parts of our East Coast from the Arctic, including the beautiful Mute Swans, although not sure if they are strictly classified as waders!

    The Mute Swans are generally recognised as being the second-heaviest birds in the World, the heaviest being the Kori Bustards of Africa. They say the Kori is 411lb and Mute Swan 39lb….

    I noted that Anne wrote about a lack of crows….. well, they are all over here….we have thousands, but it so happens you have all our house sparrows, so a fair swop, I guess!

    That’s all for now…I now have many pages of your site to visit…

    Happy ‘Twitching’ as they say in the UK…

    Take care

    Tom Briscombe

  6. I have been reading your blog for several years. I have learned so much from what you write that sometimes I feel like you’re in my back yard looking at the same things I am. For instance, a wild flower just bloomed and I am wondering what it is, and I read your blog and there is the flower I was puzzling over. The day you blogged about the evening grosbeaks, they arrived at my house, and are still here! I am hoping some stay the summer, but we will have to wait and see. You blogged about the red polls, and low and behold, huge flocks showed up here and have been wiping me out of thistle seed. It has been a great winter for bird watching, and right now a partial albino fox sparrow showed up a few days ago at my feeder–he has me spell bound! I love watching the birds and trying to spot something I’ve never seen before. Winters are so long where I live. Feeding and watching birds makes the long months of snow and cold much more bearable. Thank you for your blog, and please keep it going!

  7. Hi Kate, Judi and I have been enjoying your blog for some time and even left replies a few times when we thought we had something to add. This past weekend ,at our camp in Belltown, Elk County we found out why so many Crossbills die of road kill. Basically they just don’t move when a car comes by. They don’t fly away like other birds. On sunday morning we found at least 7 little bodies on the road from Lolita to Marienville. It was so disheartening. We even took pictures of them standing right near our car on the road . You have to swerve to miss them, if you even spot them. Maybe a shout out from you could help save a few. On another note , we saw 2 River Otters on the Clarion River on Saturday. They were twenty miles apart , One in Cooks Forest , the other just east of our camp. I only got photos of the later near dusk. The next morning we went back and the otter was out again in nearly the same spot. But sometime overnight he came out of the river and crossed the road, then back to the river. He left his tracks in the snow, including his slide marks. That was incredable. We can see why they are hard to spot though, because when the foliage along the river bank begins to leave out and Trout season begins they will be hiding. Its great to see wildlife like the Bald Eagle and River Otters making a comeback. We feel your blog helps get the word out, keep up the good work and maybe we’ll see you in the field. Doug & Judi

  8. Kate,

    I just got knowledge of this blog after watching the Nature episode on hummingbirds. I wondered if you have any contacts I could reach out to regarding falconry. I am the Den Leader for my son’s Wolf Den and wanted to see about scheduling a visit from someone to teach the boys about falconry. Love the blog and know quite a few people I will pass it along to.


  9. Hi Kate,

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I am an amateur raptor photographer from the West Coast, a couple of weeks ago I had a chance to visit Pittsburgh, I saw a red tail hawk catching a mouse just outside CMU. I did a google search and I am glad I found your site.

    If I ever get a chance to visit Pittsburgh again, I will definitely check your blog to find out the latest on your local raptors. Keep up with the good work!


  10. Hi Kate,

    I just found your blog as I was trying to identify a bird of prey, and I am pretty sure it was a red tailed hawk thanks to your wonderful information! My question is: Have you ever been to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary? It is in Kempton, Pa. , north of Reading, Pa. I was considering a trip there and wondered if you had been there, and had any advice. Thanks!

    1. Susan, yes I have been to Hawk Mountain. It’s a very good place to see migrating hawks in the fall. Well worth the trip, particularly just after a cold front has passed & the wind is from the north.

  11. Hi Kate

    I enjoy the knowledge you share here, on your blog and have been reading it for several years.

    I am usually able to identify the birds I see here in western Pa having grown up and lived here for most of my life. But today was different, while walking in Bradys Run Park this evening I saw and photographed a very small grey waterfowl swimming in the creek along the walking track. I observed it multiple times, it was mostly grey and it’s body appeared to be about 6 inches long. It was difficult to get a good close photo, every time I got near it would dive under an oak tree that had fallen across the creek. I appeared to be an adult, it did not have any down and was alone in the creek.

    In searching online and using my field guide the only waterfowl that looks close is a Least Grebe, which absolutely makes no sense.

    I have a photo albeit not very good (only had my cell phone with me) I can send. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    I am going to go back to the park tomorrow with better photographic equipment with the hope of seeing it again.

    Thanks in advance and for such a great website/blog


  12. Hi Kate,

    I really enjoy reading about the falcons on your blog. I live in the N. Versailles area and cross the Westinghouse Bridge daily. Unfortunately I think I saw a falcon on the bridge over the weekend that looks like it was hit by a car. I can’t really tell while driving it could be a red tailed falcon. Has anyone contacted you regarding this?

    Thanks MaryBeth

    1. Mary Beth, falcon watcher John English checks the bridge regularly. He didn’t see anything this weekend & just checked today (Monday) and found a dead pigeon but no hawk. … So the peregrines are probably just fine, perhaps missing a pigeon.

  13. Oh that is great news. It is really hard to tell when you are keeping up with traffic on that bridge. Glad to hear that they are okay!!!

  14. Hi Kate,
    I really enjoy reading your blog.
    I haven’t heard much about the Bald Eagles at Hays lately. Do you know if they will be banded? Or is it too difficult to access the nest?

    1. Kate Rodgers, the bald eagles will not be banded because they are hard to access and they are no longer endangered in PA.

  15. Kate
    Is Dorothy going to be OK I have been watching her sitting on her egg. Just now Dorothy and her mate were chirping to each other, he flew away and Dorothy just looked at her egg. I’m so sad for her at times it’s hard for me to view.

  16. Kate,

    How do I e-mail you with photos and video attachments? I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, etc: only have e-mail access.

    I think I saw a red-tailed hawk at Schenley Park last week and want to send you footage so you can correctly identify the bird of prey. Also, its right eye seems to be deformed so I’m concerned about it.

    Thanks for getting back to me. Your blog is in my Bookmarks under the folder named “Happy” and I have learned so much from reading your entries. Keep up the good work! ~ Cheryl

    1. Cheryl, I could contact you at the email address you typed in your comment (above) but it is a bad address. Please post another comment with your correct email address. As you can see, your email account does not display on the blog.

  17. We have what we are sure to be a family of peregrines that are pretty active around our home which is at the edge of a woodland in Kilbuck Twp. It started last year with one large gray falcon, just this morning I observed 4 of them flying all about. They have been perching all around the back of our home on branches, stumps, even on our open casement windows in the morning. We do keep a bird feeder on the edge of our deck, which is up pretty high. It seems they are attracted to the area because of all the visitors to the feeder, however we have not seen them prey on any of the birds yet. It is quite fascinating to watch.

    1. Sean, it sounds like you have a family of Coopers Hawks near your home. They’re woodland hawks that eat birds so your feeders are a big attraction.
      Coopers hawks used to be wary of people but they are becoming acclimated. The adults have gray backs and fierce faces. The juveniles are brown-and-cream colored, very similar to juvenile peregrine falcons except they lack the malar stripe.
      Here are some links to photos + blog articles about them. Adults are pictured at these links:
      An immature is pictured here: http://www.birdsoutsidemywindow.org/2014/01/18/looking-for-lunch/

  18. Hi Kate!

    How high can a peregrine falcon reach up in the sky?

    It first goes beyond the cloud. – Which level of cloud is it? Does it stay still there or float/fly around?
    Next, it swoops down onto the target on earth surface. – How can it see through cloud to the earth surface?

    Does it fly only, or can keep itself afloat on air by utilizing the thermal uplift?

    Suggest me links containing details on peregrine falcon to study more, would you please?

    Have a lovely day.


    1. Ripon, scientists who’ve measured peregrine stoops say the birds typically start at an altitude of 215m to 320m () but have been measured in a 450m-1080m () loss of altitude. I don’t know if this means that the longest stoops began at 1080m above ground.
      Clouds: Since peregrines hunt by sight they have no reason to go above dense clouds. No bird likes to fly where it can’t see & neither do we unless we have instruments in the airplane. That said, clouds come at all levels including low-lying fog which I’m sure peregrines fly over during migration.
      Thermal uplift: Birds, airplanes and gliders all experience uplift in a rising thermal. Peregrines use uplift too.
      Links for peregrines: I google to see what I can find. My trusted sites include Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds of North America, Wikipedia and its reference links, and a book: The Peregrine Falcon by Derek Ratcliffe

    1. Mark, Changes in birds are usually due to changes in habitat. Did the landscape change where you live?

    1. Hmmm. Maybe it’s the weather. Lousy cold weather brought them to you. Warm weather keeps them away.

  19. Kate–can you tell me what type of hawk would be gray with white tail feathers, almost looks like the falcons, but this bird was here near a de-wooded area last summer, by him (or her)self. This year this gray hawk is hanging out in the same area but also seen sitting with what appears to be a red-tailed hawk. I think they are hanging out because there are a lot of small creatures in this area but I haven’t seen an area where I would think they are nesting. I tried to get a picture of the bird but my iPhone did not capture a good picture and of course any time I take a walk with a nice camera, I can’t find it. My husband thinks they are both red tailed hawks but this afternoon this bird flew right in front of my vehicle quite quickly and the chest is white, mildly speckled but is a dark gray with white tail feathers. I looked up white tailed hawks, but I didn’t think they were part of our area. I am quite intrigued with this bird and cannot figure out what it is. We live near Neville Island–would one of those falcons come up to a Kennedy wooded area looking for food and would they even tolerate another hawk in it’s area? I’m hoping to get a better picture of this bird as it’s quite beautiful! The hawk that has been hanging around has actually taken a couple of our doves right off the lawn!

  20. Ok, I just saw the bird again, sitting on a branch overlooking the de-wooded area. I think I got a picture of the nest that’s pretty high up in a tree near by. The bird flew off because I was walking our puppy, but I did get a couple of pictures (not good quality sadly) and the tail is not just white, it’s white and black striped. The chest does appear white-ish but she is dark gray in her head/back. It def. looks similar to a gray hawk but they are not normally in this area, so what kind of bird are you wanting to guess? I could try to send you the pictures from my phone and see if it helps, but not knowing what this bird really is makes me crazy lol. Beautiful bird!

    1. Amy, your description is really good & it says to me that you have an oddly colored red-tailed hawk. They come in many colors — sometimes even all white! Here’s why I think it’s a red-tail:
      1) “This year this gray hawk is … seen sitting with what appears to be a red-tailed hawk.” Hawks don’t sit together in April unless they’re a mated pair. Therefore this would be a red-tail. (Hawks don’t hybridize the way ducks do).
      2) ” The hawk that has been hanging around has actually taken a couple of our doves right off the lawn!” That’s very typical hunting technique for a red-tail.
      3) “the chest is white, mildly speckled” Even oddly colored red-tails have that speckled belly-band.

      Send me a photo if you get one.

  21. Thanks, Kate! I guess I’ll have to tell my husband he was right just this once lol. She’s definitely nesting here–I saw her fly up to a really big nest at the top of a tree. I hope to see her perched on the tree limb that I can actually get a closer up view of her. I will try and get a clearer picture of her but she seems to know when I’m out with a camera 😛
    I am totally assuming she is a girl because she’s the one in the nest most of the time.

  22. Hello Kate,
    In the Hays Eagle chat tonight a veterinarian gave his opinion on why Fuzzy had the spells of immobility. This is significant because if it is indeed true, it points to the fact that it is not a permanent condition that could lead to a more dire outcome. I know you are going to be at the banding and exam and I thought this was worth passing along to you so you can forward it to your fellow examiners. I’ll copy transcript below: (thank you in advance for passing this along and for all else you do for peregrines, Anne Kane)

    “”I think Fuzzy had what’s called (in the species I regularly see in my practice) what I see as “disuse” muscle atrophy due to tendon contraction of the muscles in “his” wings and his legs. He was nested down tight below Dorothy in order to keep incubating the other eggs in the clutch that turned out to be non-viable. It is part of the intention of wanting to further the survival of the progeny..if you get my drift? He had limited time to get out and move as he grew!

    Would constant walking and flapping wings improve would correct this problem?

    yes. Remember the stages of action of the eaglets! Because it could be a problem of being contracted for so long under Dotty, he was unable to “extend ” or open up his joints for –being upright to gain balance. But in the last 24 hours he is doing it.””

    1. Thank you, Valarie. The story reminds me of a peregrines’ nest in a similar situation in Toronto about a decade ago …but there were very few photos of that one.

  23. Dear Kate,
    I discovered your blog in August when I spent two weeks with my daughter and her family. They recently moved to Pittsburgh and purchased a home on Beacon, almost directly across the street from Schenley Park! The best part of my visit was the magical hour I spent every morning from 6:00 to 7:00 jogging with my 13 year old granddaughter on the Upper Trail of the park. We were lucky enough to see lots of wildlife during our runs…chipmunks and squirrels of course, numerous deer, woodpeckers, rabbits, a hawk, and what I think might have been a marmot. Could that be? Are there marmots in Schenley Park? It was definitely a mammal, dark and low to the ground, and with a bushy tail (so it definitely wasn’t a beaver). It was larger than a squirrel, and it moved very fast.

    I had to leave Pittsburgh for New York on August 23 in the morning to attend a granddaughter’s wedding there. How I wished I could have stayed and gone on your walk through the park that morning! Perhaps you will do another one the next time I am in Pittsburgh.
    Thank you for your beautiful blog and the love of nature reflected within it.

  24. Kate, thanks for responding to my question about Sandhill cranes. We drove up to Old Ash Road yesterday and spotted 15 Sandhills! Now another question: will they winter here? I checked my field guide without getting the answer. I just discovered your blog, and I have enjoyed reading it. Jan W

    1. Jan, I think the sandhills are here year round … but I can’t remember in what months I’ve seen them.

  25. I’ve been following your blog the past few years mostly for falcon info but enjoy everything about the Pittsburgh area.

    Over the years people often worry about the young falcons falling off the ledge. I wanted to send this link and thought it would be nice to show how “safe” the Pittsburgh falcons are compared to these guys in Canada.


    I’m not sure if you have posted this before but thought it might be if interest to others.

  26. Hi Kate! I am a teacher in Auburn, AL and my 3rd-5th grade students watch the nest cameras daily. We have been following Dorothy & E2, then Hope and now Terzo on this journey.

    My students are very curious about the autopsy report on E2. Have you found out what caused his death? They would really like to know (it sounds strange, but I think they need the closure!)

    Thanks for sharing your passion! We love looking out your window!

    1. Lori, thank you for your comment. The official report on E2 has not been published yet by the PA Game Commission. However I believe it will not be a cause-of-death study as for autopsies on humans. I believe PGC will be testing for toxins in E2’s tissues in the ongoing effort to determine if today’s environmental chemical load is accumulating in peregrines. The chemicals, if he has any, were not his cause of death.

      I saw E2’s body about a week after his death and talked to Bob Mulvihill who collected the body where it was found. In order to answer your question, I will have to be graphic about his condition.

      Evidence where E2’s body was found indicate he flew from the street to the backyard. One feather was in the front yard. His body was in the back yard. His right side was broken and he had severe internal injuries that caused blood to come out of his mouth and nose. The condition of his body indicates he died of blunt force trauma.

      E2’s direction of travel was from east to west. The street he flew across is one way, moving south. If he was hit by a vehicle while flying low over the street, he would have been hit hard on his right side. That’s the only side a car could have come from on that street.

      So what killed E2? Blunt force trauma. What caused the blunt force trauma? We will never know — and a real autopsy won’t reveal it either — but we can surmise that he was hit by a car.

      No one was there to see what happened — except perhaps a driver who may not have seen the bird at all.

      p.s. The big lesson here is that cars can kill/damage birds and pedestrians! I should know. My husband was hit by a car 18 months ago while crossing the street. Fortunately he recovered and is fine now.

  27. Thank you so much!! That is graphic, but what they needed to know. They were worried that he was poisoned by eating something that had poison in its system. Although it’s not a nice picture to see in their minds, it is something they can grasp and comprehend. Thank you for sharing that information with us. It was exactly what we needed.
    Now we can enjoy watching Terzo and Hope learn how to be parents together on their new nest. (we are soooo glad you named him Terzo and not Erie 3!!!) We enjoy getting your updates and watching the cameras daily and we “Hope” that we get to see Hope’s first clutch of eggs hatch! 🙂 Very interesting watching E2s eggs and Terzo’s egg be raised together! We are “Hopeful” that at least one egg hatches this year! It’ll be egg-cellent!! (can you tell I have students helping me type this?? :)) HAHA They love their falcons and eagles! Thanks for all your info!

  28. Hi Kate,

    just an FYI the pitt falcon is feeding another one of her chicks to the hatchling. This started at approx. 1:12 today.


  29. Thanks , Kate ; I can see him now ! I don’t know why I thought he had fledged because it is too soon for that , right ? After this strange course of events lately , I guess I am a little paranoid.

  30. Hi Kate !
    Quick question :
    While uncovering our picnic tables in preparation for summer , we discovered an unidentified nest within the folds of the covering . There are 4 tiny inhabitants and we are not sure what our next step should be to preserve their lives ; will the fact that we disturbed the nest cause the parents to reject them ? If that is the case , how can we become foster parents ? Thoughts ?

    1. Linda, try to put everything back as you found it — including camouflage. The parents will come back about an hour after you’re gone. Watch from afar. They are parents so they will want to feed their babies.

  31. Is it okay to relocate it ? It is right by our lawn swing ; and that will put us too close for their comfort , I am sure

    1. Linda, I don’t know the layout of your backyard but the birds’ parents have to be able to find it. And you don’t want cats or raccoons or squirrels to find it & eat the babies. The ideal place is probably where it was. The babies will fly in 10 or fewer days

  32. Kate: My Son-In-Law is doing some work for the Aviary, and he came across a great, very old article on the Duck Hawk that I thought you might enjoy perusing. Could you send me an email where I could forward the article.

    Thanks so much for your informative blog, and your great “Handling” of C1!

    Best regards,
    Cindy A. Wilson

  33. Hi Kate,
    I live in Laurel, MD, and became a daily observer of the DC Eagle Cam at the National Arboretum this spring. Freedom and Liberty fledged recently, with their parents, Mr. President and The First Lady, guiding their flying experiences.

    I am from the Pittsburgh area and found the Hays Eagle cam this spring also. Miss seeing the two eagles on the cam since they have fledged recently. Through the Hays cam, I became aware of the National Aviary’s Peregrine Falcon cam and of your wonderful blog. I have enjoyed watching C1 grow and spread her wings. Thank you very much for your updates on her progress and of the progress of the other young Peregrine Falcons in the area.

    Despite the fact that C1 will soon be on her own, I will continue to check your site for all of your wonderful posts.

    Thank you very much for sharing what you love.
    Julie Hildebrand

  34. Kate, I’m interested in starting my own website, but I’m not knowledgable about hosting and coding. I was wondering if you did the coding/built the website and who hosts it. Any information you could provide is greatly appreciated, thanks!

    1. John, Sorry I can’t help you with website technical tips. I suggest you find someone in your local area to advise you.

  35. Kate,

    I stumbled into your blog while searching flyway information.
    I live in Ambridge, up high enough to have a view of birds that fly seemingly along the Ohio valley. Today I happened to note a small flock of “white birds” (sorry, too far away to tell anything other than approx color and number of birds, binoculars were elsewhere), that appeared to be flying north following the Ohio River. It made me wonder if there were birds that navigated their migration along the Ohio, as well as wondering where they might be headed.
    I will be stationing a pair of binocs in the living room, in case I note such an event again.

    I am thrilled to have found your blog, btw! Lots of great reading ahead of me.

    1. JeanMarie, gulls and ducks use the Ohio River as a migration guide. It’s very cool that you saw them migrating.

  36. Hi Kate, love your blog. I check it daily to see what you have for us.
    Might you consider a post about Woodcocks ?
    Now is the time, and the peenting males are at it big time.
    I was awaiting a sky dance just yesterday where I heard several in a grassy field at daybreak while scouting for turkey gobbles.

  37. Hi,

    A friend of mine recommended your site to me because of my interest in birds–and I’ve enjoyed reading especially about the peregrines. However, that’s not why I’m writing. I’m reaching out to anyone I can think of who might be able to help with the tragic situation at the Highland Park reservoir. At least a couple of females gave birth to flocks of ducklings in the past week. At one point, I counted as many as 27 very cute ducklings. But then they started dying. Yesterday, there were only 6–and one of those was all by itself, no mother in sight. I’ve spent hours on the phone today calling various agencies, trying to find someone who could rescue that lone one and do something about the situation. Animal Control said that if the lone duckling is still there tonight (when I go walking around the reservoir), I could call in the morning and maybe someone could go out there. And the Game Commission said they would notify the appropriate officer. I haven’t been able to figure out who is responsible for maintaining the reservoir itself. The Parks people say it’s not them. I’ve talked to the rescue place in Verona and contacted the Aviary for help. I’m wondering whether you might have any suggestions? Thanks.

    1. Claudette, the reservoir belongs to Pgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) but they aren’t the people to contact about wildlife. The PA Game Commission is the right organization. You’ve received good advice and you’re doing all the right things.
      Please don’t take it too hard when ducklings die/disappear. The mother duck lays more than 20 eggs per clutch because only 1 or 2 survive. In this way enough live to adulthood.

  38. Hi Kate: I just wanted to thank you for your response. I’ve talked to many people over the past week, including another person at Animal Control and the officer from the Game Commission. He said that although the Game Commission is officially responsible, usually Animal Control deals with things unless they need him for something. Anyway, at this point the 6 ducklings are surviving and seem OK, even the lone one, amazingly. The Animal Control guy, Dave, was very helpful. He, too, said that the mortality rate is very high–as much as 80%. So sad, but I guess one can’t argue with Nature. So, just wanted to say thanks for responding.

  39. Hi Kate: I monitor peregrines on Portland, OR bridges and have found your blog to be a wealth of knowledge. There are two pairs that appear to have fledged (likely unsuccessfully) and both pairs are hanging out at the nest site. Your write-up on “question-why-do-the-adults-visit-the-nest-after-the-babies-are-gone” was enormously helpful. Can you tell me how long they might continue this behavior? Can this extend until the fall? Thanks for any assistance in advance!!!!

    1. J. McKay, in Pittsburgh the adults hang out near the nest in July but less so as the summer and fall advance. Then they resume nest-oriented activity in November/December. Individuals and couples differ in their behavior however. For instance, Dorothy, the long-time resident female at Univ. of Pittsburgh, used to stay on site all year long. Her mates would usually be absent in October and then return in November. By contrast, the former territory of the current resident female (Hope) is only 15 miles away so she visits it in the off season, sometimes even in the “on” season in March.
      Stay-at-home habits are typical of peregrine falcons that are descendants of the reintroduction program east of the Mississippi. According to the “All About Birds” website, our eastern peregrines don’t exist at all. They’re not on the range map here –> https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/id. Perhaps that’s because they are mixed-race because of the reintroduction program — not pure Falco peregrinus anatum.
      Your peregrines in Oregon are “pure blood” so they might migrate to a favorite wintering site rather than spend all winter at the bridges. Your observations at the bridge sites through the fall and winter will provide data on the habits of Oregon peregrines.

  40. Thanks Kate! So very helpful – we have not seen this behavior in the past but maybe we are observing it now because of increased peregrine density in the area (e.g. the adults are sticking closer to their nests to maintain the territory). Great information – I keep your nestling age photos on my wall as a reference! Thanks again for all you help!

    1. Melania, alas an unintended consequence. Fortunately someone is watching out for these birds so things will change.

  41. Kate, I tried to send a reply to your latest alert shout Hopes first egg, but it wouldn’t finish saying my email was wrong . I am trying to do it again to see if you get this .Pat. .Weber

  42. Hi Kate,
    We’ve met and chatted about birds, so I thought I would see what you think…
    I saw a pure white sparrow this morning! (4.18.18 at 6A in Blackridge)
    I found this article from 2008 in the UK’s Daily Mail with a photo of the little guy I saw this morning.

    Have you heard this? Is it a rare thing or just new to me?
    Curious to hear what you think

  43. Hi Kate,

    I saw that you posted about our Warbler ID series last year and wanted you to know that our new and improved go at your own pace, unlimited access, Warbler ID and behavior course is already for sale and will be finished and open on by May 1st. There is a sample topic online to try.


    Thanks so much from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Academy.

    —Lee Ann van Leer

  44. While walking over Panther Hollow Bridge today, my husband & I spotted a Great Blue Heron in the lake below, hungrily eying its surroundings. Did see it stalk and apparently catch something in the water, twice. A few minutes later a second great blue flew down to join it. They both remained on the shore (Phipps Conservatory side) for quite a while.

    Just thought you might be interested.

  45. Kate:

    Thanks so much for the heads-up on “The World’s Fastest Animal”. I probably would have missed it otherwise. Perhaps another special will feature downtown Pittsburgh instead of Chicago. Heaven knows we have the pigeons for it!

  46. I start my day with your blog,
    Thank you for your dedication and expertise in a variety of subjects
    Blessings to your future endeavors

  47. Hi, Kate!
    I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate your blog. I have found it a few years ago and I love every article. Thank you, you are VERY appreciated! Thank you for all you do to help the falcons and other birds. God bless you!

  48. kate, do you know if the Westmoreland County Bird Club is doing a bird walk this Thursday on the Westmoreland Heritage Trail?

  49. I saw a very strange avian event yesterday that I wanted to run by you and see if you’ve ever seen anything like it.

    I was in Fox Chapel yesterday (Sunday) afternoon and saw a group of four or so vultures high up in sky making lazy circles. So far, so ordinary. However, I shortly saw a group of three or so what I would swear were hawks (all-white underbelly, hawk-like wing shape) making their own set of lazy circles that slowly, with each loop, brought them into the same airspace as the vultures! They all proceeded to mix and continue on their little loops without any aggression for a while before they dispersed.

    So, have you ever heard of hawks circling in groups before and even mixing with other species?

    1. Andrew, on migration they all look for updrafts to keep them aloft. The vultures found an updraft so the hawks came over to take advantage of it. They don’t mind this outside of the nesting season.

  50. Kate, I recently listened to a “This American Life” podcast about someone who broke into a British museum and got away with hundreds of specimens that I think it was Russell Wallace gathered and studied in the last century about the same time as Darwin. These birds were irreplaceable. He stole them to sell the feathers to people who tie flies for fishing! He was a musician and wanted to buy a flute. It’s a very interesting podcast if you ever have time. You have probably heard of the caper already. Thanks!

    1. Melanie, I heard about the episode but haven’t listened to the program yet. It’s amazing what people will do!

  51. HI Kate,

    I saw what I think were indigo buntings while walking around the local high school two days ago. I noticed two or three males, had neither my eyeglasses or binoculars, of course!
    Beautiful blue!
    Is it common to see them here in the suburbs this time of year?

    1. Carol, indigo buntings aren’t back in Pittsburgh yet but many people have reported seeing bluebirds.

  52. Hi Kate. I have some great video of the falcons on the cathedral. Happy to share if you want me to email them. Thanks!

  53. Absolutely amazing blog, Kate. I’ve learned so much through your posts and I deeply appreciate people like yourself who dedicate the time, effort and knowledge to creating something like this. Respect and gratitude!

    – Mike in Ontario

  54. Hi, Kate,
    This is a great resource- I am in my third year of observing a mated pair and their offspring, nesting and resting in my suburban neighborhood trees. I was wondering if you’ve ever noticed a female spreading her tail feathers to form a cone around herself in the top of a tree- Is this something the female will do to rest after the first (or subsequent) egg is laid? Or a defensive behavior? The crows have been especially hard on this pair this year.

    1. jack, the tail feather thing could be a defensive posture. I know from watching nestcams that when a peregrine falcon lays an egg she first raises her tail for about a minute to keep it out of the way, then stands over the egg for several minutes waiting for it to dry. I assume this is true of other raptors as well, and perhaps all birds.

  55. In the age of COVID-19, I have developed daily practice of writing “Haiku From My Window” and I have one about a murder…of crows. I would like to use a cropped version of your photo (Oct 28/19) – found in Google images – from “They’re Back” This is for Facebook for now – I post one a day for my friends. Could I have your permission?

  56. I have a picture of a flower which I was wondering if you would be able to identify. I tried pasting it here but wasn’t able to. Would you be able to send me an email where I would be able to paste my photograph for identification? Thank you!

  57. Hi Kate, saw the article today about the peregrine falcon seminar you are hosting tonight Sept 27- unfortunately I will be going to a funeral home and can’t participate. I am a local decoy carver and am in the process of carving my first life size peregrine falcon ( I concentrate on diving and dabbling ducks) and certainly permit my contact information to be given to anyone who might be interested in purchasing the falcon. I am just about ready to start painting it so it should be finished in a couple weeks . It’s not that great but I’m happy with it so far. Thank you!

  58. Hi Kate , thank you for the blog, it’s amazing I would want to show you a picture of the bird I saw a months ago right in front of my kitchen window, maybe you could
    Tell me what kind of the bird it was , thank you)

  59. This note is a simple ‘thank you’ for your investment of time into this website and your willingness to share your knowledge and discoveries.
    I grew up in Stowe Township and New Kensington, but have lived in Cleveland, OH for over thirty years. I would consider myself a back yard birder, although I have birded in the Indiana Dunes and and other places. My 2020 highlights were a migratory mourning warbler and rose-breasted grosbeak that frequented a feeder in my back yard. I had to smile at your series on Oakland’s roosting crows because during the same period of time, I was watching dusk-time gatherings of a hundred or so crows in two 60- or 70-foot oak trees behind my house. And, as you, I was wondering where did they come from and where will they be going.
    Now that I am retired, reading your daily blogs is part of my morning routine. It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite posting, but the ones I seem to enjoy the most are those based on walks. I know enough of the southwestern Pennsylvania terrain that I can use your pictures to imagine walking along with you and others — listening to the sounds of nature, just as much as watching for creature and vegetation surprises.
    Again, thank you.

  60. Hi Kate, I’m looking for some information regarding the Peregrine’s of Pittsburgh. I recently photographed a Peregrine feeding on an Eastern Meadowlark on top of a utility pole. I posted the photo on the PA Birders – Photography & Art Facebook page. Someone commented about the bands on it’s legs. They mentioned that it may be a bird named “Hope”, and gave me enough information to find your web-page and blog. The band was on left leg, black over green, the number was 69 on the black band, but couldn’t see what was on the green band. It had a metal looking band on the right leg. After reading about Hope on your site, could it be possible, or is it not enough information to make a determination. I live in Chambersburg, PA – Franklin County and the bird was not far from Chambersburg. I saw this bird on February 13, 2021. Maybe you can shed some light on this for me. I was going to send you some photos, but didn’t know how. You have a wonderful website and keep up the great work.

  61. Hi:

    I just found Outside my Window and I am very much enjoying it. I wish I had come across it sooner. I went to Pittsburgh for school and hada wonderful experience there. Now I live in NYC next to a 1200 acre park that is a refuge for me. Observing the birds there (woodpeckers, hawks, bluejays, robins, cardinals and more) is a relaxing and reviving exercise. 2021 is my year of nature reading, the classics like J.A. Baker and the new writers like Robert Macfarlane. I will keep visiting your blog.

  62. Hey, Kate,

    I just wanted to say, I’m a huge fan of your work. I especially loved Something in the Air.

    Great stuff! I love watching animal behavior and you don’t often get to see it that close with that much clarity.

    I’m actually publishing a post on how birds learn how to sing this week, and I plan on doing more segments on it going more into depth. I thought you might enjoy it.


    Thanks for your time,
    Makali Haines

    ===== from Kate St. John =====

    Makali Haines, your website is marked “dangerous” by Webroot so I am not revealing it to the public.

    1. I’d never heard of penning them but apparently it works well. Thanks for sharing

  63. Hi Kate- long time follower of your great blog!
    Just occurred to me to reach out to you.
    There’s a woman in Stanton Heights who has a young macaw that escaped from her home almost 2 weeks ago. I’m following the comments on the next door app for updates
    He looks like a really BIG baby. He’s staying local but high up in some pretty tall trees. Sounds like they’ve tried a number of things and just can’t get him. They’ve had some guys climbing trees but he sees them and moves to a different tree. Clearly he has found food and water. The weather is changing and likely he won’t survive cold temps and less food source. The owner said she’s contacted the zoo and the aviary and doesn’t sound like anyone has offered any great advice. Just wondering if you’ve had any experience w an exotic bird on the loose? Thanks for any thoughts/suggestions!

    1. Sorry I don’t have any advice on what to do about the escaped macaw. I know nothing about pet birds. The Aviary and zoo are the best advisors. I see that they’ve been asked & still the bird evades capture.

      What I do know is that if a healthy bird does not want to be captured it won’t be without deadly force.

  64. Thanks for your blog, esp the info about Spotted Lanternflies. Question: I’m seeking to find a home for a 5-year old parakeet. My relative can no longer care for him. Do you have any suggestions? Many thanks.

  65. This is quite funny!!

    This was in the Post-Gazette Thursday, 12/23/2021

    It turns out that birds are not real. Just check out the billboards, T-shirts, social media postings and messages on a truth van touring the country. Birds are actually government surveillance drones that recharge themselves by perching on power lines. That explains a lot. The fact that Twitter has a little bird as its symbol should tell people everything they need to know about the powerful forces at work.

    Of course, the “pro-bird” crowd will make the typical, predictable arguments about how there’s nothing to worry about, and that these are just, well … birds. But clued-in people know better. Wake up, America!

    A healthy movement is afoot across the country to inject a bit of humor into the crazed conspiracy “truther” mindset that inspired some of the insurrectionists who invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6. QAnon has finally met its match in 23-year-old Peter McIndoe, principal messenger behind the Birds Aren’t Real movement.

    This viral movement underscores how easy it is to create conspiracy theories out of something as stupid as the existence of birds. Just as Stephen Colbert stayed in character for 11 seasons as a crazed conservative in order to poke fun at crazed conservatives on his nightly Comedy Central show, Mr. McIndoe has insisted since 2017 that his movement is genuine.

    A video on his website, purportedly recorded in 1987, shows his team intensively researching to expose “the biggest crime ever perpetrated on the American people.” Since the Eisenhower administration, the U.S. government “has been committing genocide,” killing billions of birds to replace them with “sophisticated robot replicas.”

    A photo on his birdsarentreal.com website displays as evidence a photo of President John F. Kennedy with his hands on a Thanksgiving turkey with a sign hanging from its neck: “Robot bird Prototype.”

    Mr. McIndoe travels in a white van covered with messages exposing the truth about birds. There’s even a satellite dish on the van’s roof. He stood atop the van in July near the Gateway Arch to burn a St. Louis Cardinals flag in protest of the flag’s “pro-bird” message.

    Mr. McIndoe insisted in an interview on WREG-TV in Memphis that he’s not the “founder” of the movement but merely a messenger. Wearing a T-shirt that states: “Bird watching goes both ways,” he sat for a serious interview with two incredulous, unsuspecting morning show hosts. One interviewer suggested with a nervous laugh that this is “really satire” and asked what the message was with his movement. An uncomfortable silence followed. Mr. McIndoe leaned forward to state, deadpan, “Honestly, that’s kind of offensive.”

    His Memphis billboard proclaiming, “Birds Aren’t Real” in giant black letters has prompted what he says is an outpouring of support from “bird truthers.” The billboards have spread to Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.

    The truthers are everywhere. But then … so are those birds.

    This is seriously funny stuff — for a nation that badly needs to recover its sense of humor.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    First Published December 23, 2021, 12:00am

  66. Hey there! Need help IDing a bird that’s been in Friendship. Considering we are so close to the Cathedral of Learning, it’s tough to say if it’s a peregrine or Cooper’s Hawk — would be happy to email you a photo (although it’s from my phone, so it’s probably still tricky). Bands go all the way down, white “cheeks” appear to be there, and it was smaller than the crow (or starling) it was diving after from above before coming to a rest. When it flew off, wings looked like they came to a sharper point, but I’m clearly no expert.

  67. Hi Kate, your blog is awesome! Is there a way I can sign up to receive an email each time you post?

  68. Hi. TYSM for your insights and musings on our natural world.
    I read your 15 June 2022 column about the Spotted Latern Fly and perhaps took too much comfort from the fact that in 7 years it is not as deadly a pest as originally feared.
    Lately, however, there have been a lot of doom and gloom warnings about this pest and that it should be killed if at all possible.

    My question is: which is it? Will it kill trees other than Tree of Heaven? Is it harmful to crops?

    Thanks for any insight you can give.

    1. Tom, from what I have read the spotted lanternfly (SLF) is deadly to Ailanthus but not to other trees. The big worry is for crops, especially grapes.
      On an aesthetic level: Now that I’m seeing a *lot* of them this year they gross me out. They are surprisingly large bugs.

  69. I have been watching a yellow bellied sapsucker feeding on my suet and peanut butter for the past few days. Have you heard of other winter sightings in SW Pa?

  70. Kate, I was on Lake Powell in Utah several days ago and just after dawn, observed a peregrine who appeared to be rinsing its feet by swooping down onto the water’s surface and touching it with its feet. Simultaneously, feathers began drifting down from around the cliff behind which my houseboat was anchored. I surmised that the bird had taken a duck, plucked and eaten it and then washed its feet of blood by the swooping behavior I mentioned.
    I was a falconer in my youth – many years ago now. I never flew a peregrine -prairie falcons and a saker – but was well- acquainted with the birds thru friends. I have observed peregrines for many years in the wild. We have many in Northern California. I have never seen or heard of this behavior before, but then I had never heard of a peregrine taking a fish until I read about it on your website. The fact that Tom Cade observed a falcon actually take a fish is astonishing and entirely credible.
    I took a video of this bird apparently washing its feet. It’s 1:44 minutes long. Would you care to see it? I’d be happy to post it wherever you suggest.

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