Category Archives: Nesting & Courtship

Peregrine Update, 26 June

26 June 2024

Peregrine season is wrapping up with confirmation of breeding in one location and a bunch of “pair only” sightings in the Ohio River valley.

East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh:

Adam Knoerzer confirmed one chick at the nest in early June but hadn’t seen any sign of it since the 17th. Then on Monday evening 24 June, Adam was near East Liberty Presbyterian Church and confirmed “Juvie Alive and Well.”

After hearing a lot of noise, I noticed the juvie perched on a low tower on the Penn Ave side and the male dropping some food. We later saw [the juvie] fly back up to the nest.

— email from Adam Knoerzer, 24 June 2024

Adam’s photo at top shows where the young peregrine was perched. Congratulations to the East Liberty peregrines and nest monitor Adam Knoerzer!

Brunot Island RR Bridge / Eckert / McKees Rocks, Ohio River:

The Eckert Street peregrines went missing this spring but there are many nest site choices within a mile of that site. Jeff Cieslak tried to find them with no luck but on 13 June Andy Moore (author of Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit and the upcoming book Beasts in the East) photographed a pair of peregrines at the Brunot Island Railroad Bridge.

Peregrine over Brunot Island Railroad Bridge, 13 June 2024 (photo by Andy Moore)
Second peregrine over Brunot Island Railroad Bridge, 13 June 2024 (photo by Andy Moore)

Jeff Cieslak started checking Brunot Island and has seen the pair as recently as Sunday 23 June. Jeff remarked “I’m pretty sure the female from Eckert is there, with a young male.” No evidence of young.

Spruce Run Bridge, Ohio River: This pair is present every time Jeff Cieslak stops by, most recently 23 June. This pair is an adult female with a 1-year-old male. No young at this site.

Monaca-East Rochester Bridge, Ohio River:

Peregrine pair at Monaca East Rochester Bridge, 24 June 2024 (photos by Jeff Cieslak)

On 16 June Tim Johnson saw a pair of peregrines near the Monaca East Rochester Bridge and on 24 June Jeff Cieslak photographed them. There is no evidence of young this year.

West End Bridge, Ohio River: Remember that banded peregrine Jeff Cieslak photographed here on 13 June? Its bands have been traced to Baltimore, Maryland, but it hasn’t been seen since. No peregrines at the West End Bridge.

PEREGRINE SUMMARY FOR SOUTHWEST PA: This is probably the final update for 2024. Many of these sites did not have successful nests.

Peregrine Update, 19 June

Hello, Blue! in front of the snapshot camera on 17 June, 5:28pm

19 June 2024

It’s been eleven days since my last regional peregrine update. Here are just a few of the sites. More to come in the days ahead.

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh:

The juvies have made a lot of progress since 11 June when Liz Adams took this photo of one of shouting from the 32nd/33rd floor parapet. Such a lazy bird! On its belly demanding room service! It eventually flew away toward Carnegie Museum.

Juvie peregrine shouting from the parapet, 11 June 2024 (photo by Liz Adams)

This week both juvies harassed a crow at Bayard and Bellefield and chased their parents around the top of the Cathedral of Learning. By the time I snapped this photo they were out of the frame.

Cathedral of Learning, 16 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

They’ve learned how to hunt at this point but it’s a lot harder than wheedling food from their parents. On Monday they figured out that Ecco hides from them at the nest so they both invaded. Ecco shouted and left immediately. See the slideshow of their antics.

Juvenile Pitt peregrines invade the nest, 17 June 2024 (photos from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Downtown Pittsburgh:

On Monday morning 10 June PGC’s Patti Barber emailed that a Downtown juvie had been rescued from the ground and placed up high again. This Monday, 17 June, Matthew DiGiacomo heard a juvie peregrine calling overhead and posted this photo of it on Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page.

Juvie peregrine over Downtown Pittsburgh (photo by Matthew Digiacomo via Pittsburgh Falconuts on Facebook)

First, I heard the distinctive call. Didn’t take long to spot it soaring above the Forbes Avenue Garage.

Matthew Digiacomo posted to Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page, 17 June 2024

East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh: No photos available but Adam Knoerzer wrote yesterday, 18 June:

In E Liberty now — the young one was definitely flapping wings yesterday and exercising, and I can’t see a thing in the nest today. The female is perched much lower than usual today on the eastern face, and I wonder if perhaps the young one tried to fledge and is somewhere on a low roof.

The female is in a decidedly unusual spot for her — and she has some prey in her clutches but isn’t eating it. I did briefly hear vocalizing, but it wasn’t very long or intense.

I guess it’s possible that the chick is lying flat due to the heat or something, but yesterday it was pretty easy to see it anywhere due to its size.

— email from Adam Knoerzer, 18 June 2024, 6pm

West End Bridge, Ohio River: On 13 June Jeff Cieslak photographed a solo peregrine at the West End Bridge. It is banded Black/Green and appears to be “xC/20”. (The “x” means I can’t read that letter. Jeff digitally flipped the band rightside up.) Did I read the band correctly? Do any of you know this bird?

Banded peregrine at West End Bridge, 13 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Rt 40 Bridge, West Brownsville, Monongahela River:

On 1 June five birders visited the Rt 40 Bridge to watch the peregrine family of four. When Fred Kachmarik visited on the 9th and 15th of June the two youngsters were doing well.

There is a 60% mortality rate among peregrines in their first year of life so the loss of a chick is, unfortunately, an expected outcome.

American Kestrels Ready to Fledge

Screenshot from the Live Kestrelcam at CornellBirdCams

17 June 2024

Are you going through Falconcam withdrawal? Don’t despair. Four falcons in Wisconsin are still on camera and nearly ready to fledge.

Click on the image above or this link at Instagram for a brief video of American kestrel nestlings (Falco sparverius), the smallest falcon in North America.

See them Live on the Wisconsin Kestrel Cam below … WOW! That was fast! All of them fledged within a day of this article and the Live Stream is closed for the year. The kestrels say, “See you next year!”

How Do You Know a Pigeon is Nesting in Your Chimney?

Rock pigeons watch from the chimney edge (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

16 June 2024

Rock pigeons nest on cliffs in the wild, or on high buildings and bridges in feral settings. They will even nest inside chimneys if the chimney has a ledge. Years ago I had no idea this was possible until I heard cooing in the living room and finally took time to investigate.

We used to own a house built in 1907 with two brick chimneys. After we replaced the furnace, the main chimney went completely unused. There was no exhaust from the furnace and no smoke from a fireplace so I ignored chimney maintenance. I didn’t realize that my negligence left the chimney open to new tenants.

Gosh, I was naive. A brick fell down the chimney but it only happened once and I procrastinated until I forgot about it. (The missing brick probably created a ledge.) One spring I heard starling voices coming down the chimney, but I heard them only twice and I forgot about it. Then one year I heard cooing in the chimney. It happened often enough that I could not ignore it. I went outside to look at the chimney. What was going on?

As I watched from the street, a pigeon landed on the chimney and disappeared. Hmmm! When it reappeared the pigeon flew to some brush, picked up a twig, flew back to the chimney and disappeared. The chimney had no cap. He was building a nest!

Rock pigeon nests are very bare bones, mostly substrate with a few twigs and dried grasses. The male gathers material while she stays at the nest and coos when he brings new bits and pieces. I was hearing them build the nest.

video embedded from RikR on YouTube

I quickly hired a critter control company who removed the pigeon nest and capped the chimney. The cap was a simple wire mesh like this one. Problem solved! (This is not a photo of my old house but the cap is similar.)

Chimney cap on a building on Craig Street (photo by Kate St. John)

So now you know. When you hear pigeons cooing in the chimney they are setting up housekeeping. It’s never safe to assume they aren’t nesting. Rock pigeons breed all year long if there is adequate food on hand.

p.s. Have you ever seen a baby pigeon? They don’t look like their parents.

Rock pigeon nestlings, Day One and approximately Day Six (photos from Wikimedia Commons)

Peregrines Seen This Week

Banded peregrine at West End Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

8 June 2024

Peregrine falcons have been busy this week and so have been their observers. Here’s a quick roundup of peregrine news in Pittsburgh.

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh: Everyone is flying; the family is doing well.

  • This week I learned that both Pitt peregrine chicks fledged on Sunday 2 June. At Fledge Watch at 4:30pm there was only one chick on the nestrail so the first one must have flown between 3:30pm & 4:30pm. Then at 7:00pm Jenna Burdette and her husband were at Schenley Plaza when the second one make its first flight. They saw Carla and Ecco accompany the fledgling around the building to its first landing.
  • On Tuesday 4 June I watched Carla and Ecco demonstrate an aerial prey exchange while a youngster chased them. Carla then tried to entice the juvie to do the prey exchange with her but the youngster was tired of the game. Carla caved in and brought food to the fledgling.
  • Also on Tuesday 4 June, Carla and Ecco took a “time out” from the kids by perching in inaccessible locations and bowing at the nest.
  • On Wednesday 5 June Stephanie Hoogendorn on 19th floor saw and heard a juvie begging on the 16th floor patio. The juvie flew off toward Carnegie Museum.
Pitt peregrine fledgling 4 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Pitt peregrine fledgling at an unusual spot, 4 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)
Ecco & Carla bow at the nest, 4 June 2024 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera t Univ of Pittsburgh)
Ecco perches at a place where the kids can’t nag him, 4 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

Downtown Pittsburgh:

  • John English and I visited the Third Avenue peregrine site on Monday 3 June and saw four chicks at the opening and an adult on the gargoyle. The chicks hadn’t flown yet.
  • On Friday 7 June Debbie Kalbfleisch stopped by Third Avenue and saw 2 young birds. One at the nest and another on the nearby roof. “While I watched, the one on the roof lifted off & down 3rd & over the building where I lost it. Also saw an adult on the bar above the nest earlier.” By now two or three have fledged.
Downtown peregrine chicks at Third Avenue, 3 June 2024 (photo by John English)

East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh: There’s a chick at the East Liberty Presbyterian nest! Adam Knoerzer photographed it at the nest opening on 5 June.

Peregrine chick in nest opening at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, 5 June 2024 (photo by Adam Knoerzer)

West End Bridge, Ohio River: On 4 June Jeff Cieslak photographed a peregrine at the West End Bridge (photos at top and below). When he processed the in-flight photo he noticed that the bird is banded. I wonder who it is.

Peregrine at West End Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Eckert / McKees Rocks, Ohio River: No photos available but on 4 June Marcie at Don’s Diner saw peregrines at the Ohio River Boulevard Eckert Street Bridge. They were gone by the time Jeff Cieslak could get there. 🙁

Spruce Run Bridge, Ohio River: Also on 4 June Jeff Cieslak saw both peregrines at the Spruce Run Bridge. They are still getting acquainted … loudly!

Female peregrine at Spruce Run Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)
Male peregrine at Spruce Run Bridge, 4 June 2024 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Crowded Nest But A Mother Can Dream

Sitting Room Nuthatches have a full house, 30 May 2024 (screenshot from WildlifeKate (@katemacrae)

7 June 2024

We last caught up with WildlifeKate’s (@katemacrae) Sitting Room Nuthatches just after their eggs hatched on 13 May. You may remember them as the tenants who yanked out the decorations, added mud to the walls, and filled the room with dried leaves at Gwyllt Hollow, Wales.

By 30 May the youngsters had grown so large that the apartment was very, very crowded.

The crowding didn’t last long. They all left the nest.

screenshot from Live Feed of Sitting Room Nuthatches on 7 June 2024 (from WildlifeKate (@katemacrae)

From harried mother to empty nest, the kids grow up so fast!

p.s. these are Eurasian nuthatches (Sitta europaea).

Pitt Peregrines Have Flown, Fledge Watch Cancelled

First Pitt fledgling (probably Yellow) perches on stone peak at 40th floor, 3 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

3 June 2024, 7:00pm

By 3 June at 11:00am both Pitt peregrine chicks had made their first flight. Here’s how I know …

On Monday morning I walked around the Cathedral of Learning looking for any peregrine anywhere on the building. Youngsters tend to perch in locations the adults don’t use and an adult perched in an unusual place is watching a youngster.

When I saw a peregrine on a favorite perch at 40th floor Northwest, I assumed it was an adult because the location, pictured above, is too challenging for an amateur to land on. Through my scope I confirmed it was a juvenile, probably the male nicknamed Yellow who fledged a day or two ago.

I could not find the second chick, Blue, but I found an adult intently watching the 38 East “patio” roof so it’s a good bet that youngster was over there. My hunch was supported by two “kakking” episodes in which an adult circled the building and shouted at a potential threat at that level. The adults are highly aggressive at this stage.

Around that time Ecco visited the nest for a while, apparently taking a break from babysitting.

Ecco visits the nest, 3 June 2024, 11:06am (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The parents chill at the nest because the “kids” won’t return to it unless there’s food. At this point the parents are delivering food to the fledgling wherever he is. Soon the youngsters will gain flight confidence and chase their parents to get the prey. Eventually they will learn to hunt.

The last Fledge Watch is cancelled (would have been 6/4) because the youngsters have left the nestrail. The only way to see them now is to walk around the building looking for them. I know from experience that it’s hard to catch up to a peregrine who can fly.

Pitt Peregrine Status: One Chick Flew Yesterday

Two adults and one chick visible from Schenley Plaza, 2 June 2024, 4:45pm (photo by John English)

3 June 2024

Yesterday, 2 June, at 3:30pm I saw two Pitt peregrine chicks on the streaming cam so it appeared that neither one had flown. By the time I got to Fledge Watch at 4:30pm there was only one youngster on the nestrail and only one chick present when Ecco brought food.

If the other chick had been anywhere nearby he would have been front and center at the Sunday afternoon feeding. This was a very strong hint that he had flown.

Ecco feeds one chick on the nestrail while Carla looks on, 2 June 2024, 4:45pm (annotated photo by John English)

A second hint came when Ecco took away the prey about halfway through the feeding and flew it to the Fifth Avenue side of the Cathedral of Learning. The fledged chick was probably over there, but by the time I could walk to that side there was nothing to see. The fledged chick was probably sleeping off his feast on a high patio.

Fledge Watch is scheduled today for 11:30am-12:30pm at Schenley Plaza. If both chicks have flown I’ll cancel Tuesday’s Fledge Watch because they’ll be impossible to see without chasing them around the Cathedral of Learning.

UPDATE, 3 JUNE 2024 at 11:00am Both chicks have flown. The remainder of Fledge Watch is cancelled. Thanks to Jenna Burdette, who witnessed the flight of the second chick, we know it fledged at 7:00pm on Sunday 2 June.

Downtown Peregrines: 4 Chicks About to Fly

Peregrine chick peeks out from nest ledge at Third Avenue, 1 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

3 June 2024

The Pitt peregrines have absorbed so much attention that I’ve hardly thought about the Downtown peregrine family only 3 miles away. During a free moment on Saturday I stopped by Third Avenue to see them.

Standing near 353 Third Avenue I saw both adults watching the nest from above. The female was on one of Lawrence Hall’s gargoyles, the male was on the green crossbar above the nest and one chick was visible at the nest opening (photo at top).

The nest itself is not visible from the street so I drove to Mt Washington overlook near the Monongahela Incline on Grandview Ave to look into the nest with my scope. I saw four chicks at the nest! This digiscope photo is terrible but the yellow notes explain what I saw.

Four chicks plus 1 adult at Downtown peregrine nest as seen from Mt Washington overlook, 1 June 2024 (photo by Kate St. John)

There are two good reasons to go see this site soon.

1. Because the nest ledge is only 12 stories high it is easy to see and photograph the youngsters when they flap or perch at the nest edge. I took this digiscoped photo using my cellphone one year ago today on 3 JUNE 2023.

Downtown juvies at Third Avenue nest, 3 June 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

2. The nest ledge is so low that half the fledglings land on the ground each year and need human help to get up high again on the “Rescue Porch.” Here’s the story of a fledgling rescued last year: Take Me To the Rescue Porch.

Visit Third Avenue SOON to see the Downtown peregrines about to fledge. Here’s where to see them 40.43855, -80.00055. They’ll be gone by the end of the week.

Look at the ledge indicated by the yellow arrow below.

Third Avenue nest ledge, Downtown Pittsburgh (photo by Kate St. John)

Pitt Peregrines Getting Ready For Take Off

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

2 June 2024

Yesterday, while I was away at the PA Society of Ornithology annual conference, Charity Kheshgi stopped by Schenley Plaza to check on the Pitt peregrines. Both youngsters were still on the nestrail so they probably hadn’t flown yet. But you can see from Charity’s photos and videos that these two were getting ready.

I think one of them will fly today … if it hasn’t already.

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

(You’ll hear some background noise in the videos: a robin singing and the beeps and announcements from a nearby walk sign.)

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (video by Charity Kheshgi)
Young Pitt peregrine practicing flight, 1 June 2024 (video by Charity Kheshgi)
Young Pitt peregrine uses the runway, 1 June 2024 (video by Charity Kheshgi)

Ta dah! She reached the far side.

Young Pitt peregrines exercising wings, 1 June 2024 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

Come on down to Fledge Watch today at 4:30pm. Click here for more information.