There was excitement on Sunday 26 June when both eaglets at the USS Irvin bald eagle nest fledged at the same time. The eaglecam showed that when the first bird fledged, it knocked its sibling off the branch. Fortunately the second bird could still be seen on the eaglecam.
The article mentions that the eaglet will be unable to fly until next year. That’s because the flight feathers of bald eagles grow on a prescribed schedule rather than immediately upon feather loss.
In their first year of life eaglets grow their original flight feathers while in the nest, then wait until the following year to molt into Basic 1 plumage. The molt begins in the spring of their second calendar year and finishes with the tail feathers in late July–early August. This eaglet will have to wait a year to make its first flight.
(logo from USS Irvin Eaglecam, footage of the Double Fledge embedded from Pix)
Yesterday morning at 7:45am I got a call from Game Warden Doug Bergman. He was heading to an assignment in Fayette County but had just received a call that a peregrine fledgling was walking on McClure Street in Pittsburgh. By the time he could finish in Fayette and drive back to Pittsburgh it would be afternoon, way too long for this bird to be on the street.
Peregrine fledglings cannot take off from the ground in their first 24 hours of flight so this one needed an assist to get up to a high perch and start over again. Could I help?
Google Maps showed the incident at the corner of McClure and Eckert Streets — the Eckert Street peregrine nest. Jeff Cieslak had called in the trouble ticket and Jeff was still on site. Maybe we could put the bird on a nearby roof — if we could catch it. I would get there by 9:00am.
The trouble started around 6:30am when Marcy Kemmler, owner of Don’s Diner, saw a peregrine fledgling walking on the street. She stopped traffic, herded the bird onto the sidewalk and called Jeff. By the time he arrived Marcy had already saved the bird’s life several times. It was standing in clover under the California Avenue Bridge. Its size looked female to me.
The fledgling walked behind Don’s Diner and jumped up to the highest spot she could find, two feet off the ground.
She continued walking into Don’s Diner parking lot under the Eckert Street Bridge. When I arrived Jeff was guarding the bird at the base of the arch. Marcy and I walked toward Jeff. The bird’s mother started shouting from her perch on the California Avenue Bridge.
The fledgling was on the ground between the two arches (to the right of the red square in photo below). Jeff blocked the bird’s retreat away from the Diner while Marcy and I blocked its progress toward it. We didn’t realize we were loosely surrounding the fledgling but the bird’s mother did realize it and warned her youngster. Meanwhile Marcy was praying that the bird would walk up the arch.
I had never seen a peregrine walk up a bridge so I didn’t understand the significance of Marcy’s prayer until it was answered. The bird flapped up to the arch and walk-flapped its way to the top. Whew!
After it made it to near the top of the beam, we moved away to try to get a better look. Kate said, “Now would be a good time for the adults to feed it,” and as if on cue, the male comes back from his (successful) hunt, and the female flies out to scream at him (normal) and guide him directly to the newly-returned fledgling. I didn’t get any pics of that because I was amazed that it was even happening.
Just before we left Marcy said, “What should we call this bird?” It didn’t take long to decide. Marcy said, “Let’s call her Trouble.”
(photos by Jeff Cieslak, screenshot of Don’s Diner from WPXI)
UPDATE from Jeff Cieslak on 18 June @ Eckert, 8pm: Marcy called, the bird was on the ground again this evening oh, and the sun was going down. I was just relaying the story of Friday’s adventure to my friends, so we hop in the car and drove down to try to help. By the time I got there, Marcy had shepherded the bird back to the beam and it was crawling up the beam when we pulled into the parking lot. Marcy adds: “Trouble was down in the street again tonight and I got it all the way back up to the bridge. Jeff was just pulling in with his wife to try to help and I got it back up. We surely are naming that thing Trouble but it’s so amazing and it was really talking to me too. It got stuck in my little fence and I had to get it out.” Fortunately, after 18 June Trouble didn’t get into trouble again.
Male song sparrows sing to claim territory and avoid fighting with rivals. Each male has a unique song that creates an audio boundary marker that other males are expected to honor. When a rival intrudes, the owner escalates with aggressive signals before he attacks. If you know what to look for, you can tell when a song sparrow is angry.
At top, bird bander David Yeany holds a recently banded female red-winged blackbird at Frick Park on Migratory Bird Day, 14 May 2022.
On 17 May we looked for warblers along Nine Mile Run’s boardwalk and found many black walnut flowers fallen on the railing.
I would have brushed this one away until I saw an insect hiding on it. Do you see the juicy caterpillar, below? This is warbler food!
In Schenley Park a carpenter ant examined fading pawpaw flowers that smell like rotten meat, if they smell at all. No rotting meat here. She left.
Mystery flower of the week was a non-native with thin basal leaves found blooming in the woods in Frick Park. How did star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum sp.), a native of southern Europe and southern Africa, get into the woods? Is it invading?
Imagine having wild parrots visit your bird feeder.
Australia is home to 56 parrot species including the Australian king-parrot (Alisterus scapularis) and the crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans) of eastern and southeastern Australia. Though they nest in the woods they often visit urban parks and backyards.
Sometimes they scuffle over rights to the feeder, as captured by this feedercam. (The constant loud hooting in the video is a wonga pigeon.)
Occasionally an individual learns how to be hand-fed like a black-capped chickadee.
How cool it would be to have wild parrots in the backyard!
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
Seed-eating birds use only their beaks to extract their food from shells and husks. Have you noticed how they do it?
At the feeder you may see them pick up a whole nut, crack the shell with their strong beaks and let the shell fall, then work on the seed inside their mouths with tongue and beak. They do the same with grassy seeds though we rarely see it.
This slow motion video of a field sparrow (Spizella pusilla) shows how he separates the “wheat” from the chaff. It’s a lot of mouth work for tiny seeds.
In spring a change occurs in mourning dove behavior as large flocks we see in winter disperse to nest. Some flocks move north while locals break up into couples and fan out to choose a territory.
It is hard to notice when the change occurs so I graphed my eBird count of mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) in Frick and Schenley Parks, January 2021 through 9 April 2022.
The change is pretty dramatic. Just 1-5 birds from March through September, then over 40 December through February. The largest flocks were at the Frick Environmental Education Center where they sunned in the trees above the feeders. 100 mourning doves in January!
This year the count dropped below 10 in early March as they paired up. Some pairs maintain their bonds throughout the winter. Others get to know each other in the spring.
According to Birds of the World: To build the nest he brings small twigs, etc. which he delivers to her while standing on her back(!) She arranges them around her while using her body to form a simple bowl. Nest building usually takes 7–10 hours spread over 2–4 days.
The loosely built nest looks messy. Sometimes you can see through it from below.
And they mate. She lays her first egg within 2 days of nest completion. Subsequent eggs are one or two days apart.
Mourning dove pairs share incubation as they wait for the eggs to hatch in 14 days. Surprisingly neither bird has a brood patch but it works anyway.
The chicks are fed by regurgitation and grow up to resemble their parents. They fledge in 13-15 days, sooner if frightened.
Juveniles remain in speckled plumage through August. By winter they look like adults.
And in October mourning doves gather in flocks again. The process starts over from flocks to nests.
UPDATE 13 April 2022: Today at Frick Park I talked with someone who has a mourning dove nest in their yard while 16 mourning doves hung out near the feeders. Flocking and nesting were simultaneous today.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)