Category Archives: Nesting & Courtship

About To Fly

3 chicks in red-tailed hawks’ nest, Schenley Park, 28 May 2023 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

31 May 2023

Spring nesting season is continuing apace. The first batch of baby robins is learning to fly and some are old enough to forage on their own. Raptor fledglings are not far behind.

On Sunday 28 May we watched three red-tailed hawk chicks in a nest under the Panther Hollow Bridge in Schenley Park. This species hatches in the order the eggs are laid, each one two days younger than the last. The chicks clearly show their age difference in Charity Kheshgi’s video. One chick is getting ready to fly, one is still fluffy, and the middle one is halfway between.

Red-tailed hawks’ nest, Schenley Park, 28 May 2023 (video by Charity Kheshgi)

At the Tarentum Bridge on Sunday afternoon, John English and I watched three peregrine chicks lounging on top of the nestbox while an adult “babysat” nearby.

Adult female peregrine watches her ledge-walking chicks at the Tarentum Bridge, 28 May 2023 (photo by John English)

At first we saw only three chicks but after we moved to a better viewing location the fourth was on the top of the box as well, exercising his wings.

Four peregrine chicks at Tarentum Bridge, 28 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)
Four peregrine chicks at Tarentum Bridge, 28 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)
One chick concentrates on exercising his wings (photo by Kate St. John)

And suddenly I saw him fly the length of the pier to the other end and back again to the top of the box! I have no photos of this feat but you get the idea. By today he may have fledged from the bridge.

All these birds are about to fly.

(photos by Charity Kheshgi, John English and Kate St. John)

Newly Found Peregrines’ Nest Near Brownsville, PA

Female peregrine clutching prey and shouting, West Brownsville Lane Bane Bridge, 26 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

30 May 2023

Last Wednesday, 24 May, Mark Vass drove down the Monongahela River valley looking for birds and checking bridges. In West Brownsville he found a peregrine perched under the US Route 40 Lane Bane Bridge. Mark’s checklist and photo set off a quest to find the nest (https://ebird.org/checklist/S139102470)

Jeff Cieslak made the trip on Friday 26 May and found the nest hole and a pair of peregrines carrying food to it. The female is peachy with heavy dots, the male is whiter. Neither bird is banded. (My male-female assessment is based on the tendency of mid-latitude males to be paler than females. Notice that both have the adult plumage trait of horizontal stripes on their flanks.)

Male peregrine, West Brownsville Lane Bane Bridge, 26 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)
Male peregrine, West Brownsville Lane Bane Bridge, 26 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Alyssa Nees and Fred Kachmarik visited on Memorial Day, 29 May, and counted a family of five — two adults, three chicks. Alyssa’s photos show an adult in the nest hole …

Peregrine inside the nest area on the Lane Bane Bridge, West Brownsville, PA, 29 May 2023 (photo by Alyssa Nees)

… and a chick clearly visible (red circle) with fluffy white top of head, feathered face and brown back. The arrow points to the tail of an adult watching from above.

Adult peregrine (arrow) and fluffy white head, face & brown back of nestling (circle) at Lane Bane Bridge, 29 May 2023 (photo by Alyssa Nees)

Fred’s photos of the chicks include an older chick and a fluffy young one:

Where are these peregrines located?

The Lane Bane Bridge, carries US Route 40 over the Monongahela River from West Brownsville, Washington County, to Brownsville, Fayette County PA. Its construction is very similar to the Graff Bridge at Kittanning, PA, which has its own nesting peregrines.

A truss structure spans the river and ends at a pillar on each side. As far as I can tell from the photos, the nest appears to be close to the pillar. So these birds are nesting in Washington County, PA.

Interestingly, when Google Street View cameras drove by on the West Brownsville side this month, the cameras “saw” a bird perched on the superstructure near the pillar. I’ll bet this dot is a peregrine.

Bird (probably peregrine) perched near on the Lane Bane Bridge over West Brownsville (screenshot from Google Street View)

Thanks and congratulations to Mark Vass, Jeff Cieslak, Alyssa Nees and Fred Kachmarik for finding and documenting this peregrine family.

If you’d like to see the birds yourself, Jeff provides a map.

Location of West Brownsville “scrape” at Lane Bane Bridge (screenshot from Google maps annotated by Jeff Cieslak)

p.s. Could there be another peregrine nest at the next bridge three miles away? Nope. The Mon-Fayette Expressway bridge is solid concrete. Click here to see a screenshot of the Mon-Fay bridge in Google Street View.

(photos by Jeff Cieslak, Mark Vass via eBird, Alyssa Nees, Fred Kachmarik via eBird, Wikimedia Commons and screenshots from Google Street View)

Watch Peregrines This Weekend

Female peregrine feeding 4 young at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

26 May 2023, Pittsburgh

Are you in town for the Memorial Day weekend and wondering how to spend the time? Visit these peregrine sites to watch young birds getting ready to fly.

The Best Views Ever are at the Tarentum Bridge right now (photo above). Click here for a Tarentum Bridge peregrine-watch map.


Other sites include …

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh: This is the only site without eggs or young but there’s a new female, Carla, since 14 May. Carla and Ecco are courting intensively. Will this prompt her to lay eggs? Watch the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh to find out.

Ecco and Carla bow in courtship, 25 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Downtown Pittsburgh: There are 2-4 young here, about 30 days old. Watch for them to appear on the ledge on 3rd Avenue between Wood and Smithfield in Downtown Pittsburgh (click for map).

Female peregrine at Third Ave nest area, 18 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Eckert Street near McKees Rocks Bridge, Ohio River: Watch for the chicks to appear where the parents are standing in this photo by Jeff Cieslak. Click here for the map.

Peregrine pair at the nest, Eckert Street, 24 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Westinghouse Bridge, Turtle Creek: The parents are bringing food to the nest. Click here for a map of the easiest viewing location on Elder Street.

Female peregrine carrying food at Westinghouse Bridge, 13 May 2023 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Are Beaver or Washington Counties more convenient to you? Check out the latest news at all the sites below.

(photos from Lynn Mamros, the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh, Jeff Cieslak, , Dana Nesiti)

Tarentum Peregrines Will Fly Soon

3 of the 4 young peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

24 May 2023

If you want to see young peregrine falcons just before they fly, now is the time to do it. Four youngsters at the Tarentum Bridge are ledge walking and will make their first flight soon.

Last Sunday, 21 May, Lynn Mamros photographed the family.

Peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

The father peregrine brought in food …

Parents bring food to Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

… the mother peregrine plucked it …

Female peregrine preparing a meal for the chicks, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

… and then the feeding began. All four chicks are visible in most of these slides. Can you see them? (Hint: One’s on the perch.)

The youngsters are losing their fluff and will soon be completely brown.

Peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

And then they will fly. Don’t miss it! Visit the Tarentum Boat Ramp to see them. Click here for a map.

Learn more about the process of first flight at Peregrine Progress: First Flight.

(photos by Lynn Mamros)

Who is Who? Carla or Ecco?

Ecco and Carla at the Cathedral of Learning nest, 18 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

21 May 2023

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.

Carla digging the scrape, 19 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

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.

Compare Carla and Ecco: bands and no bands (photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Coloration: Carla’s chest has tiny dark flecks. Ecco’s chest is pure white.

Carla and Ecco: flecks on breast vs clear white breast (photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

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.

Carla and Ecco: Carla’s back is uniform charcoal brown, Ecco’s shows contrast (photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

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.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Courtship and Exploration

18 May 2023

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.

Ecco and Carla bow at the nest, 17 May at 5:10pm.

This morning the pair already visited the nest before dawn. Watch them on the live stream at the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning.

(*) For more information on Carla’s arrival, see “Her Name is Carla.

(photos from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

New Female Peregrine at Cathedral of Learning!

New banded female peregrine at Cathedral of Learning, 14 May 2023, 14:04 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

15 May 2023

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.)

New banded female peregrine at Cathedral of Learning, 14 May 2023, 14:04 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

She periodically looked at the sky as she stretched her legs and wings. Amazingly she aimed her color band at the camera!

Band on new female peregrine at Pitt = Black/Blue S/07

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.

New banded female sunning at Pitt peregrine nest, 14 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
New female at Pitt peregrine nest, 14 May 2023, 2:27pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Will she stick around? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile here’s a slideshow of her from a different angle.

(all photos from the National Aviary falconcam and snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

No Eggs This Year

Morela stands at the nest scrape overnight (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

1 May 2023

Alas!

As much as Morela stands at the scrape overnight at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest and as much as she crouches to lay an egg, nothing happens. This has been the case for more than for two weeks now. Every night is like this one on 27-28 April.

video from the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning

Ecco is solicitous. He bows with Morela several times a day, brings her food and probably mates with her though we don’t see it on camera. Ecco can tell that she’s egg-y but …

Morela’s problem is obviously physical. She may be egg bound but there’s no way to know. Whatever it is, it does not look life threatening at this moment(*).

So there are no eggs this year at the Pitt peregrine nest. I would love for Morela to prove me wrong but … Alas.

Meanwhile, if you’re starved for the sight of peregrine chicks on camera, check out these streaming cameras:

(*) HISTORY AT THIS NEST SITE: In 2014 Dorothy was egg bound, looked very sick (photo at the link) and then passed the egg and was well enough to lay eggs the next year. As of this writing on 1 May, Morela does not look sick like Dorothy did.

(photo and video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Vigil

Ecco waiting at the nest overnight, 24 April 2023, 5:04am (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

24 April 2023

Yesterday morning I was sure Morela was going to lay an egg but when Ecco brought her breakfast she left the nest for two hours. At 9:40am she tried laying again for 90 minutes but no egg. All afternoon it was Ecco on the green perch, not Morela, as you can see in the timelapse video below, 7am-7pm.

12-hour timelapse at the Pitt peregrine nest, 23 April 2023 (video from the National Aviary Falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

She returned to the nest at 8:22pm but did not lay last night.

This morning at 5:00am Ecco was back at his vigil on the green perch (photo at top). As of this moment (7:45am) he’s been back and forth to the perch but Morela still hasn’t come.

Ecco waits at the green perch, 24 April 2023, 7:17am

I don’t know what’s going on but it’s now so late in April that I think a challenger is unlikely.

All we can do is wait and watch the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning.

We’re joining Ecco in his vigil.

(photos and videos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Peregrine Highlights … and When Will She Lay an Egg?

Morela looks ready to lay an egg, 23 April 2023, 6:18am (from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

23 April 2023

Around 6:15am today I was sure Morela is about to lay an egg so I waited to make an announcement … but she left the nest. Still no egg. Stay tuned at the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning just in case.

Meanwhile most of the region’s peregrine pairs are on eggs. This update will be brief.


Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh:

Ecco has been doing everything he can to prompt Morela to lay eggs, including bringing her tasty morsels for every meal. On 13 April he stored a woodcock on Dr. Alan Juffs’ air conditioning unit and returned to pick it up.

Ecco returns to pick up the American woodcock he cached outside Dr. Alan Juffs’ window (photos by Dr. Alan Juffs)

The pair bows frequently. In this photo he seems to be saying, “Please, Morela.”

Ecco whispers, “Please lay an egg, Morela.” 21 April 2023 (from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

This 24-hour timelapse video from 21-22 April shows how often they bow and that Morela is spending the night at the scrape. We are all … all … waiting.

(video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Downtown Pittsburgh:

Dark plumage peregrine brings food for to the nest at Third Avenue, 14 April 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

On 14 April Jeff Cieslak photographed a nest exchange Downtown on Third Avenue. Yes, one is still the brown bird I saw earlier in April. Jeff photographed the other one, too, and found out it’s banded. No reading on the bands yet.

Banded peregrine flies from the Third Avenue nest, 14 April 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Eckert Street near McKees Rocks Bridge, Ohio River:

Nest exchange at Eckert Street, 13 April 2023 (photos by Jeff Cieslak)

At Eckert Street Jeff photographed a nest exchange on 13 April and the male attacking a red-tailed hawk on 10 April keeping the area safe. Yup. On eggs.

Eckert male peregrine attacks a red-tailed hawk, 10 April 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

West End Bridge, Ohio River:

Peregrine at the West End Bridge, 7 April 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

New peregrine site! Jeff staked out the West End Bridge until he confirmed a pair is lurking there.

Peregrine flies by the bridge abutment, 7 April 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

One of the birds is banded! Again no read on the bands yet.

Banded peregrine at the West End Bridge, 7 April 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Jeff made a map of where to watch.

West End Bridge peregrine viewing (Google map marked up by Jeff Cieslak)

Westinghouse Bridge, Turtle Creek:

Peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge, 16 April 2023 (photo by John English)

John English photographed a peregrine snoozing on 16 April. We think this pair is still on eggs.

Clairton Coke Works, Monongahela River:

NO PEREGRINES HERE. Last week Dana Nesiti found out that despite many checks on the quench tower no peregrines are nesting at USS Clairton Coke Works.

For all the news and sightings, check out this summary.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh, Dr. Alan Juffs, Jeff Cieslak, John English)