Pictured above is a bird at work in 2009, a peregrine falcon named Charlie whose job was to clear birds from the airfield at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. His full crop indicates that he’d already done his job that day but he was looking around anyway, just in case some birds came back.
This spring a pair of barred owls (Strix varia) nested in Frick Park. The two nestlings fledged in June but won’t become independent until fall so Charity Kheshgi found all four family members when she looked for them last Friday. Here are the two youngsters at dusk.
On Saturday she saw one juvenile, photo below and at top.
And on Sunday both youngsters, one shown below.
I went to see for myself and learned a helpful tip. If you’re looking for young owls at dusk, find the upset and shouting wood thrushes and robins. They will be dive-bombing the owl.
This April Charity Kheshgi and I noticed Cooper’s hawks nesting in Frick Park and wondered when their young would fledge. In “Cooper’s Hawk Nesting Questions” I concluded the young would fly by June 22-26 at the latest. They were even later than that because…
This month we checked on their progress every few days. On 3 July the pair had four thriving youngsters who were walking on branches and making short hops. (Not fledged yet?) By 8 July the young could fly but they refused to leave the vicinity of the nest.
All four were still there on 14 July, flying well and begging near the nest. “Feed me!” Their father baby-sat, above, while their mother was out hunting. The young were very alert, especially when they saw “mom” coming home.
July 14th was the last time we saw all six family members together. Five days later they had dispersed. The Cooper’s hawk family had grown up.
Merlins (Falco columbarius) are small fast falcons about the size of pigeons, though pigeons outweigh them. Like their peregrine cousins, merlins declined because of DDT and their population retracted into Canada’s boreal forest. After DDT was outlawed, they recovered slowly and in 1995-2014 began to take up residence further south. Some began nesting in towns and cities.
Four months later on 18 July Malcolm saw proof that they’d raised a family — a juvenile with parents at Chatham.
County record! Merlins are nesting in Pittsburgh!
Birds of the World, Merlin account explains: “Merlins do not build a nest and make few if any modifications to an old corvid or hawk nest. In cities, they nest in conifers in residential areas, school yards, parks, and cemeteries. High availability of safe nesting sites (corvid nests in spruces) and high prey abundance (house sparrows) appear to be two main reasons for urban populations of merlins.”
Yes, I’ve seen plenty of house sparrows in the merlins’ territory.
How long will the juvenile merlin hang around?
Again from Birds of the World, Merlin account, “Fledglings remain dependent upon adults and remain near nest sites for 1 to 4 weeks. They often hunt for dragonflies, which are abundant in July and August and may half-heartedly chase potential prey species or pigeons.”
Will the Chatham merlins be back next year? Perhaps nearby but not in the same nest. Merlins rarely use the same nest in two consecutive years.
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)
Six of us gathered at Schenley Park yesterday morning in perfect weather for a bird and nature walk. (The sixth is taking the picture.)
First on the agenda was a look through my scope at the Pitt peregrines. Though we were half a mile from the Cathedral of Learning we could see one adult babysitting and two fluffy heads looking out the front of the nestbox. This is where the chicks were standing as we watched.
Inside the park, a pair of red-tailed hawks is raising three chicks about the same age as the peregrines. We paused on our walk to watch them eat. Best views are from here.
Scroll through Charity Kheshgi’s Instagram photos to see our Best Birds including the blackpoll warbler pictured above.
On 12 April my friend Charity and I saw a Cooper’s hawk building a nest. Yesterday we saw an adult in the nest, incubating. We wondered about the process: When did nest building end? When did incubation begin? Does the male share incubation duties? How long before the eggs hatch?
The answers are fascinating because Cooper’s hawks don’t follow the expected rules. In the quotes from Birds of the World, below, did you know? …
Cooper’s hawks are a “common backyard breeding bird in cities of all sizes.”
Male Cooper’s hawks do most of the nest building. The female stops by occasionally to check on his progress and helps a bit, especially at the end.
Nest-mates have multiple genetic fathers. “Cooper’s Hawks exhibit high rates of extra-pair paternity involving both territorial and especially non-territorial floaters.”
Only the female has a brood patch. She does most of the incubation. The male takes over for short periods while she eats.
The female broods the chicks for two weeks, about twice as long as peregrines do.
Meanwhile in southwestern Pennsylvania, great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) laid eggs in January/February and hatched young around the time of this video. Keep an eye out for activity above. As the owlets grow up their nests will become more obvious, even during the day.