Category Archives: Peregrines

What Peregrine Season Might Have Been

Return of the Peregrine Trailer from Brian McClatchy on Vimeo.

5 July 2020

Pittsburgh’s peregrine nesting season was disappointing this year, from the failed on-camera nest at the Cathedral of Learning, to the many un-monitored nests during the COVID-19 shutdown.

As compensation here’s the trailer for a beautiful 2013 video, The Return of the Peregrine, filmed in Germany.

This is what peregrine season might have been. Fingers crossed for next year!

(video embedded from Vimeo)

Not The Soap Opera We Thought

Ecco with Morela at the Pitt peregrine nest, 3 March 2020

2 July 2020

This spring the unresolved rivalry between two male peregrines — Terzo and Ecco — at the Cathedral of Learning made for a disappointing nesting season but generated a lot of speculation. Now that we know more about the Downtown peregrines we can lay one bit of speculation to rest.

Back on 15 March when Terzo and Ecco’s rivalry was spinning like a revolving door, I was surprised to see the Downtown female peregrine Dori appear on camera at Pitt. At the time I couldn’t help wondering, “Is the unbanded male Dori’s new mate who is shopping in Oakland because he doesn’t like the Downtown site?” … This led to speculation that Ecco was two-timing between the two nests. No, he is not.

Ecco has not been two-timing between Pitt and Downtown because (1) he’s not Dori’s mate and (2) he would have been way too busy Downtown to visit Morela at certain critical times.

Dori’s mate: On 28 June we learned from Lori Maggio’s photos that the Downtown male peregrine is banded. (Ecco is not banded.)

Adult male peregrine with silver colored right leg band, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Close-up of silver colored right leg band on Downtown Pittsburgh adult peregrine, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Critical timing: Here’s one example.

We learned on 28 June that the Downtown peregrine nest produced at least two young, probably more, who fledged approximately 25 to 30 June 2020. Parent peregrines are always extremely busy during the fledging period as they watch, feed and protect their naive young. During that period the Downtown adults had no time to make jaunts to other territories.

Meanwhile at Pitt, Ecco spent a busy day courting Morela multiple times on 25 June.

Morela and Ecco, 25 June 2020, 7:32am

Even if we didn’t know Dori’s real mate, this timing indicates Ecco has nothing to do with the Downtown nest.

So, Ecco isn’t two-timing. Frankly he’s having trouble being a successful one-timer.

My apologies for sending us all down this speculative rabbit hole. I should have brushed off Dori’s visit as curiosity on her part. I’ve seen other females visit the Pitt nest during turbulent times. Magnum visited twice in 2016 during Hope’s first turbulent year.

As much as I know peregrines I never learn that they’re surprising.

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

Young Peregrines Are Fledging Downtown

Juvenile peregrine practicing for first flight, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)

29 June 2020

Because of the COVID-19 shutdown there have been few eyes on the street in Downtown Pittsburgh so I was grateful when Point Park University police called me on Friday afternoon, 26 June 2020, with news of the Third Avenue peregrine nest. Unfortunately they had found a dead peregrine falcon fledgling. The good news is there are youngsters Downtown and they’re learning to fly. Maybe there are more. On Sunday morning 28 June Lori Maggio went Downtown to find out.

At 9:30am Lori texted me to report a youngster whining on the nest ledge and an adult watching from a gargoyle on Lawrence Hall.

Juvenile peregrine at the Third Avenue nest ledge, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Begging juvenile peregrine, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Begging at the Third Avenue nest ledge, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)

The youngster was watching this adult who has a silver right leg band (color band is hidden from this view). This is not Dori. Her right leg band is pink. In addition, this bird doesn’t look like Dori and its plumage looks male to me — sharply contrasting head, tail, wings and pale back. If I’m right, the Downtown male is banded.

Adult peregrine with silver colored right leg band, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Adult peregrine, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Close-up of silver colored right leg band on Downtown Pittsburgh peregrine, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)

As Lori watched, the youngster exercised her wings and made some practice flights along the ledge.

Juvenile peregrine wing-ercizing, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Wing-ercizing, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Pre-flight practice, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Hop, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Juvenile peregrine hops while testing his wings, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)

At 2pm I joined Lori at Third Avenue and we walked around looking for peregrines. There was still one juvenile at the nest ledge plus an adult on top of Oxford Center.

Interestingly, the adult intently watched a spot we could not see in the vicinity of Forbes and Cherry Way, staring at it for at least half an hour before flying away. This sort of intense watching is usually a sign that the parent peregrine is watching a juvenile. If so, there were at least three young at the Downtown nest this year.

This morning Lori is at Third Avenue again, observing one adult plus the youngster on the nest ledge. I hope she can get a photo of the color band!

(photos by Lori Maggio)

You’d Think It Was March

Morela at the nest overnight, 2020-06-25, 2:20am

26 June 2020

It’s late June, the solstice has passed, and yet three Cathedral of Learning peregrines are courting and the female Morela spent most of Wednesday-Thursday night at the nest.

Female peregrines normally spend the night at the nest before egg laying. Don’t get your hopes up, though. It’s too late in the year for successful eggs.

On 25 June over a period of 9 hours Morela courted with suitors four times, twice with each male, Ecco then Terzo. Click on links on these images and captions to see video of each event.

Ecco and Morela bow for 3 minutes, 2020-06-25 at 5:50am
Ecco and Morela bow for 9 minutes, 2020-06-25 at 7:30am
Terzo arrives at 10:30am, 2020-06-25
Terzo and Morela bow for almost 4 minutes, 2020-06-25, 10:40am
Morela sunbathes at 10:48am, 2020-06-25
Morela and Terzo court for 5 minutes, 2020-06-25, 2:15pm

Here’s a quick video summary: Day in a Minute, 25 June 2020 7am to 7pm.

After a long failed nesting season, the peregrine soap opera continues at Cathedral of Learning. Is Morela enjoying all the attention? You’d think it was March.

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

Closer To Ecco

Ecco and Morela appear to touch beaks, 16 Jun 2020, 8:17am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

22 June 2020

Though the peregrine nesting season has failed at the Cathedral of Learning, Morela continues to visit the nest and bow with her suitors, Terzo and Ecco. In a normal year this activity would have ended with egg laying in March. This year, over a period of (now) four months, we’ve been able to observe individual behavior in the two males and Morela’s relationship with each one.

Indeed their relationships are different. I’ve noticed that during the longer courtship sessions Morela bows closer with Ecco than she does with Terzo.

During this five minute bowing session on 16 June, Ecco and Morela turn their heads side to side and nearly touch beaks. This is a more intimate form of bowing than merely bobbing up and down.

On 18 June, Terzo initiates a three minute courtship session that lacks such a close approach.

Since we are humans, not peregrines, we don’t know if the behavioral difference is due to the males’ personalities or Morela’s chemistry with each one. But we can see that Morela comes closer to Ecco.

p.s. This month Ecco has been bowing with Morela before dawn! Click here for a bowing session at 5:30am on Sunday 21 June.

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

At Least We Are Spared This

Recent peregrine news out of San Francisco is sadly familiar. SFist reports that people watched the falconcam in horror as a male peregrine, nicknamed Canyon, killed and ate his first hatchling at the PG&E nest.

We know what this is like. Every year from 2016 through 2019 Hope, the female peregrine at the Univ of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, killed and ate some of her chicks as they hatched. Most years she ate two of them. In 2017 she ate only one. Morela replaced her in October 2019.

Read the SF news here https://sfist.com/2020/06/18/bad-news-male-falcon-eats-young/ and if you have a strong stomach watch their video. Hope’s behavior is mentioned in the article.

Screenshot from SFist, San Francisco, 16 Jun 2020

Peregrines eating their hatchlings is so unusual that in the 20 years I’ve tracked it I know of only four peregrines who’ve done it:

  1. Hope at the Univ of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning, 2016 through 2019
  2. a female at UMass Amherst in May 2017
  3. a female at a wild cliff in Wyoming where fire retardant was sprayed (can’t find the link)
  4. Canyon at San Francisco PG&E, June 2020.

Some of you are wondering if this male could be one of Hope’s offspring. No, for at least two reasons:

  • This unbanded young male peregrine, nicknamed Canyon, hatched in 2019. All of Hope’s offspring from 2016 through 2019 are banded. An unbanded male born in that timeframe cannot be one of hers.
  • Canyon is too far away to have dispersed from Pittsburgh. San Francisco is the other side of the continent.

As crazy as 2020’s failed nesting season has been at the Cathedral of Learning, at least we have been spared this.

(screenshots from SFist article)

Ecco is Back, But So Is Terzo

Ecco and Morela court at the Pitt peregrine nest, 16 June 2020, 8:16am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

17 June 2020

When I reviewed yesterday’s time lapse video I saw Morela entice an unseen male to court with her at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. She bowed with him in the 7 and 8 o’clock hours but she wasn’t with Terzo. Ecco is back!

In this Day-in-a-Minute video you can see both courtship sessions with Ecco, then Terzo at the nest alone at 10:30am. (Nothing else happened for the rest of the day.)

Morela and Ecco bowed at 7:08a in the video below.

In their second bowing session at 8:17a they nearly touched beaks, then Ecco checked the sky.

Ecco and Morela bow at the Pitt peregrine nest, 16 Jun 2020, 8:17am
Ecco checks the sky while bowing with Morela, 16 Jun 2020, 8:20am

Terzo arrived two hours later and felt comfortable standing there, unthreatened, for 50 minutes.

Terzo checks the sky when he arrives, 16 June 2020, 10:39am
Terzo stands near the unviable eggs, 16 Jun 2020, 11:01am

These two male peregrines still haven’t figured out who “owns” the Cathedral of Learning but at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s too late in the season to raise a family.

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

Peregrines In The Sun

Terzo sunbathing at the Pitt peregrine nest, 11 June 2020, 13:55 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

In a turnabout since early May, Terzo is now spending more time at the Pitt peregrine nest than Morela even though there’s no nesting going on. He sunbathes at the nest and sometimes shades the eggs.

Morela sunbathes, too, though not as often.

This is quite different from Terzo’s behavior in May after Morela laid eggs on May 9 and 16. At that point he was still in a contest with an unbanded male named Ecco. On May 17 Morela began incubating the eggs but neither Terzo nor Ecco helped so she stopped on May 22.

Apparently Ecco is gone. Terzo is so confident of this that he closes his eyes and sleeps in full view of the sky. We don’t know if Ecco is gone forever but Terzo isn’t worried.

This week Terzo sometimes shelters the eggs even though they aren’t viable. He seems to know this and never incubates.

Every day is similar. Morela and Terzo bow at the nest around 9am. Terzo later sunbathes or shades the eggs if the weather is hot. Morela may sunbath or perch in front. Many hours pass with neither bird at the Cathedral of Learning nest. The peregrines come to enjoy the sun.

Watch Terzo and Morela’s activities in four Day-in-a-Minute videos, June 8 through 11. Each video lasts 60 seconds; it will take four minutes to watch them all.

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

Terzo On Camera

Terzo at the Pitt peregrine nest, 31 May 2020, 12:23p (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

1 June 2020

Yesterday Michael Potoski remarked that he hadn’t been watching the falconcam often “but when I do look it seems the eggs keep moving to different positions with no sign of Morela, Terzo or Ecco.” A mystery! So I looked into it.

Sunday 31 May 2020 was a very active day at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest even though the eggs are no longer incubated. In this Day-in-a-Minute video you can see Morela come to the nest at 9:20am and move the eggs into a pile. Then at 10:05am Terzo shows up for one of many visits.

It was chilly yesterday with a northwest wind but the nest side of the building was out of the wind and in full sun. At 12:15pm Terzo arrived to sunbathe for about an hour.

Terzo sunbathing at the Pitt peregrine nest, 31 May 2020, 12:51pm

Then at 1:50pm Morela came too and bowed with Terzo for more than 4 minutes. This is the longest time they’ve spent together at the nest since Ecco, his rival, made Terzo so cautious. This video includes the full 4.5 minutes even though there’s not much action.

Terzo was on camera a lot yesterday. Ecco was absent, at least for the day.

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

Remember When: The Car-Surfing Peregrine

Peregrine fledgling on the roof of a pickup truck, 30 May 2013 (photo by Ericka Houck, National Aviary)

When a young peregrine lands on the ground on his first flight he doesn’t yet have the upper body strength to flap and get airborne. He has to be rescued and put on a high perch to start over.

In Downtown Pittsburgh the Third Avenue nest site is so low that fledglings land on the ground every year. Thankfully, passersby call the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523 to rescue the downed birds.

Downtown’s fledglings are often found on the sidewalk but sometimes a bird gets creative. Last year one waited at the bus stop. Seven years ago a fledgling landed six feet off the ground on a pickup truck roof rack. Then things got interesting.

Read about 2013’s car-surfing peregrine in this vintage article: Fledged For A Ride.

(photo by Ericka Houck, National Aviary, 30 May 2013)