Just one week ago the new female peregrine, Carla, appeared on camera at the Cathedral of Learning. Since then she and the resident male, Ecco, have been courting every day, sometimes as often as 10 times a day, and Carla has shown an interest in the scrape.
Now that these two are a permanent couple how do we tell them apart? Here are some tips for comparing and identifying each bird.
Banded: The easiest clue is that Carla is banded and Ecco is not.
Coloration: Carla’s chest has tiny dark flecks. Ecco’s chest is pure white.
Carla’s back is nearly uniform charcoal brown while Ecco’s back shows light-dark contrast between his paler gray back and black wingtips and tail.
Size: Male peregrines are 1/3 smaller than females. Carla is always the bigger bird as shown in photo at top. Compared to Ecco, Carla’s body is longer and she is bulkier. If only one bird is on camera, compare it to the size of the nestbox or camera view.
And now we’re ready for a quiz. See if you can identify who is who.
The more we watch Carla and Ecco the better we’ll get at identifying them.
Seen This Week: While out birding on Tuesday I noticed blooming flowers and unusual leaves at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve. Mitrewort (Mitella diphylla), at top, is one of my favorites because of its delicate, intricate flowers.
A study seven years ago of bird population trends predicted that climate change would cause most species to decline while a few would increase. In May 2016 I wrote about two species whose fates would be different.
Did this prediction come true?
The maps below show population trends during the non-breeding season. The white-throated sparrow’s trend map for 2007-2020 indicates their abundance dropped 30% in the lower Mississippi area and on the East Coast from New York to North Carolina.
Surprisingly, robins experienced regional decline as well, though not in Pittsburgh.
I’ve noticed the drop in white-throated sparrows during their peak migration in early October and mid-to-late April. American robins seem the same as ever here in Pittsburgh
Have you seen a change in white-throated sparrows? Let me know.
(photo from Wikimedia Commons, maps from Cornell University eBird Status and Trends; click on the captions to see the originals)
The new female peregrine, Carla(*), has been at the Cathedral of Learning for only a few days but is quickly becoming acquainted with the territory and her new mate Ecco. Yesterday they made courtship flights around the building and bowed at the nest several times.
Though it seems late in the season to start nesting, the snapshot camera shows Carla exploring the nest and the pair’s interest in each other. (The slides repeat automatically.)
#1. Ecco calls to Carla, “Come down from the nestbox roof.” When she doesn’t, he leaves and she asks him to come bow.
Carla poses while sunbathing in front of the snapshot camera, 17 May at noon.
Schenley Outing Rescheduled to Sunday 28 May (Memorial Day weekend) due to conflict with Komen More Than Pink Walk
Schenley Park, 28 May 2023, 8:30a
Meet me at the Schenley Park Visitors Center (40.4383304,-79.9464765) on Sunday 28 May (the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend) for a bird and nature walk , 8:30am to 10:30am. Migration will be winding down but nesting birds will be in full swing including scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, red-winged blackbirds and many robins.
As always, dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.
If the birding is good we’ll have the option to continue until 11:00a.
Phipps BioBlitz Bird Walk in Schenley Park, 4 June 2023, 8:30a
Phipps BioBlitz is an annual event for families, students, local scientists and naturalists in which we conduct a biological survey of the plants and animals in Schenley Park. There will be booths on the Phipps lawn displaying the wonders of local nature plus walks in the park including my bird walk at 8:30am-10:30am. The event is free. No registration required. Read all about Phipps BioBlitz Day here.
Meet me on the Phipps lawn (directions here) Sunday 4 June, 8:30a-10:30a, after you check in at the Events Desk. Parking is Free on Sundays!
For the eighth consecutive year, falcon father Jamie and mother Moxie squawked loudly and angrily Monday as their baby chicks that hatched atop Indiana Michigan Power Center (IMPC) were briefly removed from their nest to receive identification bands.
The three male chicks were named Bolt, Unity and Artemis, and the one female was named Carla.
… We used the opportunity to invite I&M employees to select the names – and they submitted more than 650 names for consideration.
… [The name] Carla is in recognition of one of I&M’s respected leaders, who is retiring this summer after more than 30 years with the company.
Who is Carla’s namesake? I contacted Tracy Warner in Media Relations at Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of AEP, and he confirmed that Carla the Falcon was named for Carla E. Simpson who retired in the summer of 2020.
Carla Simpson started as a clerk/cashier in 1988 and by the time she retired was a director of the company and listed in the Annual Report. Interviewed in 2017 for the AEP Retirees newsletter, Carla Simpson said something that really resonates with me.
Q (asked of Carla E. Simpson): What is the biggest challenge you have faced and overcome in your career at AEP?
A: The biggest challenge I have faced as a woman is not being heard at times. Sometimes I can make a suggestion or statement and it is overlooked, but another person may make the same suggestion and be heard. This is a challenge that I have not yet overcome but I am working on it. It sometimes requires me to restate what I said or ask for clarity as to how the other person’s suggestion or statement is different from mine.
The female was banded and by 4 May Jeff finally got a shot of her bands pictured below. Jeff wrote, “This kinda looks like S/01 Black/Blue? Could be green. …. [The bird] flew off and dropped a feather into the river, P5 left, I think, and that pretty much confirms that it’s the female.”
I can understand why Carla left the West End Bridge for the Cathedral of Learning. In 2020 she hatched on a 27-story building, the Indiana Michigan Power Center.
She is now preparing for a long stay on a 40-story building, the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, as seen from Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park below.
You can watch Carla and her future mate, Ecco, on the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning. It is probably too late in the season to start nesting so they won’t be on camera frequently. However Carla and Ecco are getting to know each other and that may involve bowing at the nest. Wait and see.
In Sunday’s update I explained that Morela was very ill when she disappeared last Friday and said: “If Morela is gone a new female will come to the Cathedral of Learning to be Ecco’s mate.” Well, that didn’t take long! A new female peregrine showed up at 2:00pm and displayed her bands. I already know where she came from.
Yesterday was so warm and sunny that Ecco sunbathed for 90 minutes at midday. Then at 2:00pm a new female peregrine showed up and sunbathed for half an hour. (See slideshow at end.)
She periodically looked at the sky as she stretched her legs and wings. Amazingly she aimed her color band at the camera!
Female peregrine Black/Blue S/07 was banded on 5/18/2020 at nest on a building at One Summit Square, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
From her photos she looks paler than Morela to me and her face is different.
Will she stick around? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile here’s a slideshow of her from a different angle.
Two weeks ago I wrote that there would be no peregrine eggs this year at the Cathedral of Learning because Morela was unable to lay any. She crouched and strained but appeared to be egg bound.
Since then Morela has had days when she looks very ill, then seems to recover a little, then looks ill again. Though she stopped standing over the scrape as shown above, she has not returned to her formerly energetic self. Her bleary eyes indicate she feels unwell.
Ecco knows that she is ill.
He does what he can by bringing her food which he prepares more carefully than usual, as if he’s making it easy to eat. Unfortunately it is not enough.
On the morning of 7 May Morela felt bad enough that she left the nest for 36 hours. That day I found her facing the wall in the 38th floor southeast cache area.
She returned to the nest at 5:34pm on 8 May and seemed slightly better but in the next few days her health declined. In this snapshot she is leaning to the side, something she never did when healthy.
During a difficult night on May 11-12 Morela leaned a lot and may have lost her balance a couple of times. On Friday 12 May at 5:51am she left the nest and has not been seen since.
Her long absence and ill health indicate we probably won’t see her again.
Life goes on in the peregrine world. If Morela is gone a new female will come to the Cathedral of Learning to be Ecco’s mate. This year it’s too late to raise a family but if all goes well there will be peregrine chicks next year.
Hoping for happier times ahead.
UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long! A new, banded FEMALE peregrine came to the nestboxon 14 May at 2:27 PM.
Here she is at the nest this afternoon. I thought this was Morela but when I looked at the image I can see that SHE’S BANDED! (Morela was unbanded.)
I’ve known for years that chimney swifts eat flying bugs as they zip around above us but I didn’t think about the variety of insects they encounter. Now that I live in a high-rise flying insects sometimes perch outside my window. This elegant bit of “chimney swift food” visited my window more than a week ago.
This week I spent four days birding at Magee Marsh, Ohio on Lake Erie’s shore where I saw 113 species including 20 species of warblers. See my eBird trip report here.
The warblers were on time but the plants were late compared to Pittsburgh. Places near the lake have a later growing season because water temperature changes more slowly than land and influences local weather. Instead of deep green leaves, the trees had tiny leaves and the oaks were still flowering.