Category Archives: Peregrines

Camera Goes Off Aug 15

Hope visits the nestbox on 4 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Hope on 4 Aug 2018, National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

August 12, 2018:  The Live Stream will stop but camera Snapshots will still be on.

Summer is a lazy time for peregrine falcons.  The adults are molting and the young have left home.

At the Univ. of Pittsburgh I usually find a peregrine snoozing in a nook on the north face of the Cathedral of Learning.  As expected the birds shun the nestbox except for a short spurt in late July.  So we won’t miss much when …

Ozolio’s six month contract for streaming the National Aviary‘s falconcams ends this week on August 15.

The Cathedral of Learning and Gulf Tower live streams will go dark but you can still see snapshots at the links below:

As you can see, there’s not much to watch …

Cathderal of Learning nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Cathedral of Learning nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Gulf Tower nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)
Gulf Tower nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

Streaming will resume in February 2019 in advance of the nesting season.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Cathedral of Learning and Gulf Tower, Pittsburgh, PA)

Elizabeth Peregrine Released To Foster Family

Biologist Patti Barber holding freshly banded Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling, about to be released 25 June 2018 (photo courtesy David Barber)
Biologist Patti Barber holding freshly banded Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling, about to be released 25 June 2018 (photo courtesy David Barber)

Good news!  The fledgling peregrine from the Elizabeth Bridge, who was found injured on the road deck on 3 June 2018, has recovered.  He was released to a peregrine foster family last week.

This youngster was one of at least two fledglings at the Elizabeth Bridge. The other was found dead on the road deck on 5 June. The nest site his parents chose — above the road and without any ledges — makes it a dangerous location for first flight. (Read more here)

Thanks to the care he received at Wildlife Works rehabilitation facility in Youngwood the fledgling recovered from head trauma and was ready to go last week.  On 25 June the Pennsylvania Game Commission released him to a foster family of wild peregrines in northeastern Pennsylvania where the chicks are the same age as he is.

While with his foster family he will strengthen his flight muscles, improve his flying skills, and learn to hunt.  When he’s ready to leave he’ll disperse on his own.

His release shows that Pennsylvania’s wild peregrines are doing well.  This year there are enough wild peregrine nests that youngsters in rehab facilities are released to foster families rather than to hacking. The Elizabeth Bridge juvenile and our Downtown peregrine chicks were all released to wild foster families.

In the photo above, PGC’s Patti Barber holds the Elizabeth Bridge juvenile just before he’s released near his foster family’s nest.  The nest is on a cliff (not in the picture), high above a river that’s visible in the background.

Here’s another picture of him just after he was released.  In a tree!

Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling just after release at cliffside nest site 06-25-18 (photo courtesy David Barber)
Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling just after release at cliffside nest site 06-25-18 (photo courtesy David Barber)

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who helped this young peregrine restart his life in the wild.  Good luck to him.

 

(photos courtesy the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Southwest Region)

Growing Greener

Hope perches near a plant growing in the nestbox at the Cathedral of Learning, 24 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Hope perches near a plant growing in the nestbox at the Cathedral of Learning, 24 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The peregrine falcon nestbox at the Cathedral of Learning is growing greener.

A plant sprouted near the front perch and grows a little every day.  The seed probably came from the crop of a bird the peregrine family ate for dinner.  We’ll have to do some weeding when the nestbox is cleaned next fall.

Click here for a current view of the plant.

A NOTE REGARDING THE STREAMING VIDEO CAMERA:  The National Aviary’s streaming video contract lasts six months and will expire some time this summer, perhaps soon.  The stream will resume in February 2019 when the nesting season gets underway again.  In the meantime, see snapshots of the nestbox at this link.

(photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Air Traffic Control

Dorothy stoops on an immature bald eagle, 6 June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)
Dorothy stoops on an immature bald eagle, 6 June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)

The airspace over Greenfield was busy with bird traffic on Sunday. One of those birds was in control.

Around noon Anne Marie Bosnyak, Linda Schmidt and I were chatting at a table outside the Staghorn Cafe when Anne Marie pointed out four distant turkey vultures. She’d left her binoculars in the car so she wasn’t sure about the fourth one. With my binoculars I identified it — a peregrine falcon.  At that distance I couldn’t tell if it was immature or adult.

Most birds avoid flying near peregrines because of their swift pursuit of avian prey and fierce territoriality.  The vultures were no exception.  They circled together and moved westward, away from the peregrine heading south.

The peregrine rose in the heated air, then noticed a pair of dark birds rapidly heading west and turned to follow them.

Ravens.  As if to acknowledge the peregrine’s presence one of them tumbled three times in the sky but they didn’t slow down.  The ravens left without incident.

The peregrine circled lazily in the heat and then something really interesting flew below him — an adult bald eagle heading toward the Monongahela River.

As I watched, the peregrine dove several times at the bald eagle and drove it lower and away.  Even through binoculars I could see the eagle flinch as it tried to evade the peregrine.  They disappeared over the horizon toward Hays.

In Pennsylvania peregrine falcons control the airspace whenever they want to.  Bald eagles don’t stand a chance, as shown in Peter Bell’s photo above.

Here’s what happened during a similar incident in 2012: Peregrine Versus Bald Eagle … Guess Who Won.

 

(photo by Peter Bell)

Peregrine Update, June 22

Peregrine chick at Humane Animal Rescue, 15 May 2018 (screenshot from Humane Animal Rescue Facebook page)
Peregrine chick at Humane Animal Rescue, 15 May 2018 (screenshot from Humane Animal Rescue Facebook page)

22 June 2018:

Yesterday was a big day for peregrine falcon news.  There are updates from four sites.

Downtown Pittsburgh’s peregrines: formerly at Third Avenue

One of two young peregrines from Downtown Pittsburgh released to foster parents in northern PA (photo courtesy Dan Brauning, PGC)
One of two young peregrines from Downtown Pittsburgh nest, released to foster parents in northern PA (photo courtesy Dan Brauning, PGC)

On Wednesday the PA Game Commission Southwest Region issued a press release on the status of the Downtown peregrine chicks that were removed from their nest on 8 May (pictured at top on 15 May).  I have not seen the press release so my source for this news is John Hayes’ 21 June 2018 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  Displaced Pittsburgh peregrine falcon chicks resettle in new home in northcentral PA.

Though two of the chicks passed away I am happy to learn that the remaining two were fostered at a wild peregrine nest on a cliff in north central Pennsylvania.  One of them is shown in a tree above just after release. He was wetted down to insure he would not fly abruptly.

Fostering is much better than hacking.  In hacking, the chicks have no parents to learn from.  In fostering, the chicks are placed in a family with chicks of similar age.  The family accepts the newcomers and the parents feed and teach everyone.

Please read John Hayes’ article for all the details.

UPDATE, 11am:  I received the PGC Press Release (click here to read the entire release).  Here’s my favorite quote from it:

“The Pennsylvania Game Commission on May 31 transported the chicks from a wildlife rehabilitation facility to the nest, where both adult and young peregrines had been seen. It quickly was apparent the adults at the nest accepted the new chicks as their own. The chicks were seen at the nest the next day, with chicks that had hatched in the nest and their parents.”

 

Elizabeth Bridge, Monongahela River, Allegheny County

Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

Unfortunately, the Elizabeth Bridge nest site is dangerous for peregrine fledglings. This year we’ve learned that they land on the roadway on first flight.  One fledgling was found dead on 5 June, the other was found injured on 3 June and taken to Wildlife Works rehab center.

Yesterday we heard good news of the surviving juvenile, embedded below from Wildlife Works, Inc Facebook page.  (Click here for a full-length photo.)

During the week of  10 June observers checked the bridge often for signs of continued nest activity — especially looking for food deliveries — but there were none.  The parents remain at the bridge. PennDOT has resumed construction work on the entire bridge.

 

Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny River, Allegheny-Westmoreland Counties

Young peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 18 June 2018 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Young peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 18 June 2018 (photo by Steve Gosser)

By now at least one of the three juveniles has fledged.  Rob Protz reported this activity on 20 June 2018:

Tarentum: Fledge watch Wed. evening (between the raindrops).

The smaller juvenile was not seen. The two larger juveniles were present, mostly on top of the nestbox, though one did wander down to the downriver end of the railing early on after 6 PM. There was one visit by an adult – probably a food drop – but since it was mostly behind the box, it wasn’t very visible. One juvie did jump down and stay behind the box for a while at that point.

Visit the Tarentum Bridge soon to see the young peregrines.

 

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

Terzo and Hope court on Midsummer Day, 21 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Terzo and Hope court on Midsummer Day, 21 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

On Midsummer morning, Hope and Terzo made a quick visit to the nestbox and bowed to each other. Though they will not nest again this year bowing strengthens their pair bond.

 

(photo credits:
screenshot of Downtown peregrine chicks 15 May 2018 from Humane Animal Rescue,
peregrine at Elizabeth Bridge by John English,
injured juvenile peregrine from Elizabeth Bridge embedded from Wildlife Works Facebook page,
juvenile peregrines at Tarentum Bridge by Steve Gosser
Terzo and Hope at Cathedral of Learning from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh
)

Hacking Young Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine hack box at New River Gorge National River (photo in public domain from NPS, annotated by Kate St. John)
Peregrine hack box at New River Gorge National River (photo in public domain from NPS, annotated by Kate St. John)

Many of you have asked about the status of Dori and Louie’s peregrine chicks, taken from their Downtown Pittsburgh nest on 8 May 2018.  I have no news of the chicks, but I do know the PA Game Commission planned to hack them at an undisclosed location.  Based on the chicks’ age, I think this would have happened in early June.

What is peregrine hacking?

Hacking is a falconry term for the process of introducing captive chicks without parents to independent free flight. The Peregrine Recovery Program used this method to restore peregrines to the wild after they went extinct east of the Mississippi. Every wild peregrine in the eastern U.S. is descended from one or more hacked birds.

The Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia has four decades of experience in hacking peregrines.  Please read their excellent description of hacking, complete with photos from their program.

This brief description, partly drawn from ccbbirds.org, includes National Park Service photos from the Shenandoahs and New River Gorge.

A hack box, above, is prepared and placed on the cliff.  It has:

  • Grill-work on the cliff side so the chicks can see the sky and valley,
  • A door that opens on a safe ledge for wing exercising,
  • A chute for delivering food to the chicks.

Young peregrines are placed in the box after banding and before they are old enough to fly.  The box is kept closed at first for the chicks’ protection from great horned owls and other predators.

Peregrine chick being placed in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology)
Peregrine chick being placed in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology website)
Peregrine chicks in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology website)
Peregrine chicks in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology website)

 

The chicks are fed using the chute. (They don’t see humans feeding them.)

Using the chute to feed the chicks (photo from National Park Service, New River Gorge)
Using the chute to feed the chicks (photo from National Park Service, New River Gorge)

When they are old enough to ledge walk, the door is left open so they can walk out and exercise their wings.  They are still fed using the chute.

Eventually the chicks fly and learn to hunt. Food is delivered to the hack box until they are self sufficient.

Young peregrines flying before they disperse from the hack site (photo from National Park Service)
Young peregrines flying before they disperse from the hack site (photo from National Park Service)

When the fledglings are self sufficient they fly away (disperse).

We know they disperse far.  Three hacked birds from the Center for Conservation Biology program have come to Pittsburgh to nest.

 

(photos by the National Park Service from the New River Gorge National River hacking program and via the Center for Conservation Biology website)

 

Tarentum Peregrines: The Week To Watch

June 15, 2018:

The Tarentum peregrine family is already fun to watch. Now the excitement is ramping up.

Back on June 5, Gerry Devinney captured this video of the adult peregrines escorting an osprey away from their nest.  On June 8 Mary Ann Thomas wrote about them here: Tarentum Peregrines Defend Their Nesting Success.

Last Tuesday evening, June 12, the first nestling ventured out of the nestbox to ledge walk and exercise his wings.

We don’t know the chicks’ exact ages but they’re somewhere between 32-36 days old today. Young peregrines fledge at 38-45 days old.  These birds will fly soon, maybe within a week!

Visit the Tarentum boat launch to watch the youngsters get ready to fly.  Click here for a map.

UPDATE, June 15, 6:10pm:  Rob Protz reports that there are three (3!) young peregrines out of the nestbox this evening.

 

(video by Gerry Devinney)

Peregrines at the Graff Bridge

Adult peregrine at Graff Bridge, Manorville, 7 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)
Adult peregrine at Graff Bridge, Manorville, PA, 7 June 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

Yesterday Patience Fisher and I went birding in Clarion County. On the way back I said, “Let’s go look at peregrines.”

Promising a view of peregrine falcons can ruin one’s credibility but I was hoping to see them at the Rt 422 Graff Bridge near Kittanning.  I thought they’d be there but their nesting status hadn’t been confirmed yet.  So why not try?

As soon as we got out of our cars in Manorville I heard and saw a begging juvenile calling from the power tower.  Before I could get him in the scope he left the tower, pursuing another peregrine.

We walked the Armstrong Trail in the direction the two birds flew.  Finding the adult pictured above was easy.  She was perched on the bridge catwalk, looking down into the trees below, and kakking.  Elsewhere under the bridge — not nearby — we heard another begging juvenile.

Success!  I borrowed Patience’s cellphone to digiscope the adult.

We certainly saw one adult and one juvenile. I think the distant begging sound was a second juvenile.  Here’s how I reached that conclusion:

Guess #1:  The first juvenile pursued the adult to that area of the bridge but he landed below in a place she considered unsafe, so she was kakking to tell him to move.  I’ve seen this kind of interaction at Pitt.  Kakking means “I see danger.”  Kakking without dive-bombing means the danger is not a predator to be driven away — so the danger is something else.

Guess #2: I think there are two juveniles.  The other begging call was far away from the original action and its tone sounded like a juvenile who thought it couldn’t/wouldn’t fly to pursue the adult.

Guess #3:  The adult was female.  This is the shakiest guess of all.  Could have been the male.

If you’d like to see these birds for yourself, visit the viewing area soon.  Click here for directions.

 

(photo by Kate St. John; thanks to Patience Fisher for loaning her cellphone)

Peregrine Update, June 5

Hope leaves with prey while a juvenile lunges from behind, 2 June 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Hope leaves with prey while a juvenile lunges from behind, 2 June 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

Peregrine nesting season is in transition.  Some nests have fledged, others are still in progress.  Here’s an update from last week’s most active peregrine sites in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

Peregrine watching was exciting near Heinz Chapel last weekend.

Peter Bell’s video above (Pitt Peregrines Facebook page) shows how close the birds were. As he says, “The challenge of photographing peregrines … they’re comfortable up high and far away. This is Hope on Heinz Chapel – what is considered extremely low, about 250 feet up.”

Peter snapped the top photo around 3:30p on Saturday (June 2) as Hope flew away from two aggressive juveniles on the Heinz Chapel roof.  She was carrying prey but she wouldn’t let them have it because it was part of her lesson plan.  Ignoring the lesson, they rushed her.

I joined Peter at 4p and we walked — sometimes ran — to follow the action in the air. Overhead two really loud juveniles whined for food, flew at breakneck speed, and chased their mother.  On the ground, wedding after wedding emerged from Heinz Chapel and posed for photos by the lawn.

Eventually the two dramas nearly collided. Dangling prey, Hope flew from Heinz Chapel toward the Cathedral of Learning urging a juvenile to flip upside down to receive it.  He flipped, she dropped it, and … he missed!  Good thing it hit the lawn and instead of the bridesmaids!

The two youngsters fledged May 29 and 31, spent the first few days landing on the Cathedral of Learning, then graduated to Heinz Chapel and Alumni Hall.  By yesterday afternoon, June 4, the entire family was hard to find.  They’re further away from home as the parents teach the young how to hunt.

 

Westinghouse Bridge over Turtle Creek, Monongahela watershed, Allegheny County

Young peregrine ledge walking at Westinghouse Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
Young peregrine ledge walking at Westinghouse Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

John English and I visited the Westinghouse Bridge around noon on Sunday June 3 and found the juveniles ledge walking and shouting at their mother, “Feed me!”  We eventually saw the entire family — both adults flying and three juveniles on the arch.

In the photo below, a juvenile has his head turned away to look at his mother. You can see the “eye spots” on the back of his head that are meant to fool predators.

With his head turned away to look at his mother, juvenile peregrine shows the "eye spots" on the back of his head, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
With his head turned away to look at his mother, juvenile peregrine shows the “eye spots” on the back of his head, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

 

Elizabeth Bridge, Monongahela River, Allegheny County

Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

John and I then drove up the Monongahela River to look for peregrines at the Elizabeth Bridge.  From our vantage point at the waterfront we saw two adults and heard a youngster begging from the nest area but we didn’t see any juveniles.  What we didn’t know is that a juvenile had flown recently because …

Around 2pm a young peregrine was seen on the road in the center of the bridge’s northbound lane but traffic in the construction zone was too intense to stop (reported here by Walter Marchewka).  Fortunately Philip Tyler was able to retrieve the bird and take him to rehab. The youngster hit his head quite hard and is being treated for head trauma. (Click here for Philip Tyler’s report on Facebook.)

UPDATE, Tuesday afternoon, June 5:  Sadly another juvenile peregrine was found dead on the bridge deck (road surface) this morning.  Game Warden Doug Bergman retrieved its body.

 

Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny River, Allegheny-Westmoreland Counties

View of Tarentum Birdge nestbox area, June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)
View of Tarentum Birdge nestbox area, June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)

Amber VanStrien has good news from the Tarentum Bridge last weekend.  Using her zoom camera from the nearby upstream park she photographed two chicks moving around in the nest box.

Peregrine nestlings at Tarentum, June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)
Peregrine nestlings at Tarentum, 3 June 2018 (photo by Amber Van Strien)

If you’d like to see this family for yourself, click here for a map.

 

(photos by Peter Bell, Pitt Peregrines on Facebook; John English, Pittsburgh Falconuts on Facebook; Amber VanStrien)

Fly For Food

Three peregrines in one photo, 30 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell))
Three peregrines in one photo, 30 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell))

May 31, 2018:  includes 2 photos from yesterday’s update.

We were treated to quite an airshow yesterday at Fledge Watch.

Fledgling #1 made his first flight on May 29 and was flying so well on his second day out that we sometimes mistook him for an adult.  He circled the Cathedral of Learning many times and soared into the wind.  He also used many perches — the northwest roof merlon, a spot above the yellow lights, the Babcock Room roof and gutter.  He even joined his brother on the railing in hopes that food would arrive.  It didn’t.

Hope and Terzo circled, swooped and dove. They exchanged prey in mid-air.  They put on the best flight show we’ve seen for years but youngster #2 wouldn’t budge.  Hope even pulled food from the cache area and dangled it from her talons as she hovered over him.  He shouted and flapped his wings … and he stayed put.

The yellow circles below show their locations while this was going on:  #1 in the Babcock Room gutter (left), Hope hovering above, #2 on the railing.

Two juveniles and one parent peregrine at Pitt, 30 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)
Two juveniles and one parent peregrine at Pitt, 30 May 2018 (photo by Peter Bell)

If you can’t imagine how #1 got into the gutter, here he is as he makes that decision.

Fledgling #1 on the Babcock Room roof, 30 May 2018 (photo by John English)
Fledgling #1 on the Babcock Room roof, 30 May 2018 (photo by John English)

By late afternoon one of them — probably #2 — was so tired that he slept on top of the nestbox.

Pooped out young peregrine takes a nap on top of the nestbox, 30 May 2018, 4:30pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Pooped out young peregrine takes a nap on top of the nestbox, 30 May 2018, 4:30pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Fifteen minutes later he was awake and ready for more.

Pitt peregrine youngster is ready to go, 30 May 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Pitt peregrine youngster is ready to go, 30 May 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

We’re in for rain and thunderstorms for the next four days.  Fledge Watch is over.

But life doesn’t stop for the Pitt peregrines.   #2 will fledge. The two juveniles will improve their flying skills. They’ll learn to hunt and by early July they’ll leave home.

Long life to both of them. (Don’t try anything dangerous near glass!)

 

(photos by Peter Bell (Pitt Peregrines on Facebook) and John English (Pittsburgh Falconuts on Facebook). see captions for details)