Category Archives: Peregrines

Oh My! 5 Eggs at Pitt

21 March 2019

Surprise! This morning at 6:08am Hope, the female peregrine at Pitt, laid a fifth egg.

We didn’t expect it but Hope certainly knew it was coming. This may — or may not — change our hatch date estimate. Only Hope knows the answer to that.

Will she lay six? I doubt it but you never know.

Watch the Pitt peregrines on the National Aviary falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning.

p.s. Thank you, Sara Showers, for alerting me about the 5th egg.

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

Fourth Peregrine Egg At Pitt

Hope lays her fourth egg of 2019 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

Hope, the female peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning laid her fourth egg this evening, Monday March 18, at 6:21pm. It was hard to get a snapshot of the eggs because she quickly resumed incubation … except for about 20 seconds when Egg #4 was still drying next to her.

Very brief view of the 4th egg alone

Then she stood up for a moment and we can see four eggs.

Look quickly! There are four eggs, 18 March 2019, 6:33pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

And she covered them.

Hope and Terzo will now incubate for approximately 34 days. Hatching may occur as early as Easter Day, April 21. I’ll post the annual warning not to watch the hatch on/about April 14.

p.s. For those who are new to watching Hope, she has a bad habit of killing & eating some of her chicks as they hatch. This is a very rare behavior. It is not normal. We don’t know why she does it.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Univ. of Pittsburgh)

News of Downtown Pittsburgh’s Peregrines

Peregrine at the nest ledge on Third Avenue, 28 Feb 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Every spring we wonder where Downtown Pittsburgh’s peregrine falcons will decide to nest. Thanks to Lori Maggio’s recent observations and photos, we’re pretty certain they’ve chosen their favorite site at Third Avenue. We also think this pair is still Dori and Louie (more on that later). Here’s the news from the past two weeks.

Above, the Louie perches at the Third Avenue nest ledge on February 28. Below, the pair sits atop Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall.

Peregrine pair perched on the top corners of Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall, 28 Feb 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Someone perched on a Lawrence Hall window ledge. I wish that bird was outside my window!

Peregrine on the window ledge at Lawrence Hall, 28 Feb 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

On March 1, Louie waited on the “rescue porch” railing while Dori was inside the nest area.

Male peregrine perched on the “rescue porch” railing while female is in the nest area, 1 March 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Lori snapped the following two photos while she walked across the Smithfield Street Bridge. Yes, you can see a peregrine standing in the nest area from that distance! Lori zoomed her camera.

Peregrine in the Third Avenue nest area as seen from Station Square, 1 March 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Peregrine in the Third Avenue nest area as seen from Smithfield Street Bridge, 1 March 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

On March 8 Louie was perched at the nest ledge and flew away.

Peregrine on the nest ledge and flying away, 8 March 2019 (photos by Lori Maggio)

Lori’s observations and photos helped us decide that these birds are still Dori and Louie because …

  • Their behavior is the same toward each other. (I’ve always seen a change in behavior — unusually intense courtship — when there’s a change in individual birds.)
  • They have all the same favorite perches. (New birds pick new favorite perches.)
  • The male’s feathers are pale and they always look rough, not smooth. I may be wrong but … Paleness indicates to me that this bird is male. Roughness indicates a bird in ill health or advanced age. In Louie’s case, it’s advanced age. He’s 17 this year, the same age as his mother Dorothy was when she passed away at Pitt.
  • The male is banded black/green with a silver USFW band. Though we can’t read the bands from Lori’s photos, the colors match Louie so he’s not out of the running.

Here’s another photo of the ruffled-looking male. He looks like Louie to me.

Peregrine on the nest ledge, 8 March 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

p.s. In case you missed it, we knew the peregrines wouldn’t nest at Gulf Tower this year because of roof construction. The nestbox was removed (temporarily) in January; the Gulf Tower camera is not operational. Gulf Tower will install a new nestbox when construction is completed. For more information read No Nest at Gulf This Year.

(photos by Lori Maggio)

Second Peregrine Egg at Pitt

Hope with two eggs, 14 March 2019, 2:42a

Thursday morning, 14 March 2019 at 2:30am, the female peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning laid her second egg.

The snapshot below shows Hope just after she laid the egg, holding her feathers away to allow it to dry.

Watch the Pitt peregrine nest on the National Aviary falconcam.

p.s. Thank you to Luann Walz for alerting me to this event.

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

Peregrine Nests Are Different

Hope sleeps on the perch at left while her first egg of 2019 rests nearby (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

With 10,000 species of birds on earth, there’s a lot of variety in their methods for nesting, incubating eggs, and raising young. You can see this on the Hays bald eaglecam and the Cathedral of Learning peregrine falconcam, now that there are eggs in both nests. Here’s what we’ve seen already.

Bald eagles …

  • Place their nests in trees within sight of water.
  • Build their nests of sticks and line them with grasses
  • Begin incubation(*) immediately, as soon as the first egg is laid.

Peregrine falcons …

  • Place their nests on sheer cliffs (traditional nest site) or on buildings or bridges that resemble cliffs.
  • Don’t “build” a nest. Instead they use a high ledge that has deep gravel, dirt or dust and scrape a bowl in the substrate to hold the eggs.
  • Delay incubation until the next-to-last egg is laid. Note that when it’s cold and there are only one or two eggs in the nest, the adult bird will periodically cover the eggs without heating them.

The photo above shows Hope perched at her nest before dawn without “sitting” on her first egg. Even though the temperature was close to freezing at the time, she didn’t have to keep the egg warm because she hadn’t begun incubation.

And here’s Terzo guarding the egg while Hope eats breakfast.

If you’re used to nesting robins, chickens and bald eagles, peregrines are certainly different.

Watch the Cathedral of Learning peregrines on the National Aviary falconcam. For more cool facts about them see my Peregrine FAQs.

(*) Incubation is when the bird opens its belly feathers and lays its bare skin against the eggs to heat them. Constant warmth is required for the embryo to develop.

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

First Egg of 2019 at Pitt Peregrine Nest

Hope with her first egg of 2019 (snapshot camera), 11 March 5:37pm

Monday, 11 March 2019:

This afternoon at about 5:22pm Hope, the female peregrine falcon at the Cathedral of Learning, laid her first egg of the season.

Here she is in two snapshots, above and below.

Hope with her first egg (main camera), March 13, 5:35pm

Every year she lays an egg approximately every other day until she reaches a total of four. Expect her next egg on March 13.

Watch her on the National Aviary falconcam.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at University of Pittsburgh)

She Looks Egg-y

Hope at the Cathedral of Learning nest, 2 March 2019

Hope, the female peregrine at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning nest, looks as if she is ready to lay an egg.

She hadn’t done so as of 2 March 2019 at 9:30a but she’s clearly getting ready. Her earliest egg date in the past has been March 6.

Since I’m traveling in Hawaii right now I’ll probably miss the first egg moment but I know you’ll keep me posted.

Watch her on the National Aviary falconcam at:

(photo from the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh)

Raptor News Around Town

Female peregrine at Tarentum Bridge, 20 Feb 2019 (photo by Steve Gosser)

February is a great month for watching raptors in Pittsburgh. Peregrine falcons are courting and bald eagles are already nesting. This week was especially full of raptor news. Here are just four of our many pairs.

First things first: Peregrine falcons!

Peregrines love good weather — don’t we all — so they were particularly active on Tuesday February 20, a single sunny day in the midst of snow, sleet, rain and fog.

Tarentum Bridge Peregrines:

At Tarentum, Steve Gosser found the resident female peregrine perched on a lamppost. Though she isn’t banded she’s easy to recognize because her breast is very dotted. This is quite different from her mate who has an almost clear white breast and is banded Black/Green 48/BR (Westinghouse Bridge, 2014).

Above, she looks regal on the lamppost. Below, Steve whistled to attract her attention and she gave him the “Who’s whistling at me!?” look. Many of you saw this photo when I shared Steve’s post on Facebook. It’s the perfect Peregrine Attitude shot.

Female peregrine at the Tarentum Bridge, 20 Feb 2019 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Neville Island Bridge Peregrines:

There was a lot of Peregrine Attitude at the Neville Island I-79 Bridge when Karen Lang and I stopped by on Tuesday.

We found the female in a tree, preening in the sun but it wasn’t long before the male flew in and mated with her. (Yes, my digiscoped photo is awful. )

Female peregrine at Neville Island I-79 Bridge, 20 Feb 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

Afterward it looked like the peregrines weren’t paying attention but the female was alert for trouble. She flew over our heads in pursuit of a raven, then perched on the topmost arch and the pair mated again. This is serious Peregrine Attitude, as in: “We own the place! There are two of us here!”

Minutes later the female pumped upriver to chase away an immature female peregrine. After the ladies flew out of sight, the male circled up and away as well.

I was able to see through my scope that the male is banded Black/Green, possibly the same male as in prior years: “Beau” Black/Green 05/S (Pitt, 2010). However I couldn’t see any bands on the female, no dark spot like the Black/Red bands on Magnum, the resident female of prior years. This female deserves another look. I wonder if Magnum is gone.

Cathedral of Learning Peregrines:

“Hey, Terzo. Come here!” Hope at the Cathedral of Learning nest, 21 Feb 2019 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Courtship is underway for Hope and Terzo at the Cathedral of Learning. Yesterday, February 21, she called for him to bow with her at the nest. We can’t hear her but people inside the Cathedral of Learning probably did. She is one loud bird.

The pair bowed for less than half a minute and then they were gone.

Watch the Pitt peregrines on the National Aviary Falconcam. Expect their first egg next month.

Hays Bald Eagles:

It’s been a busy week for the Hays bald eagles. They’ve been on eggs since February 12.

On Monday, February 18, the female laid her third egg. Then on Wednesday morning it snowed so hard that she had to give herself a good shake to get back to normal. Watch the video here.

Keep up with the Hays bald eagles at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania’s Hays Bald Eaglecam.

(credits: Tarentum peregrine photos by Steve Gosser. Neville Island peregrine by Kate St. John. Cathedral of Learning peregrines from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh. Bald eagle photos from ASWP’s Hays bald eagle camera.)

A Peregrine Hero Has Passed

Among the heroes of the peregrine falcon’s restoration in North America, Tom Cade was legendary. During his lifetime peregrines went from plentiful to nearly extinct. Today their population is healthy and growing, thanks in great part to Tom Cade’s efforts and dedication. He died this month at age 91.

Tom Cade was a falconer nearly all his life. He became hooked on peregrines at age 15 when one flew close overhead on its way to capturing prey. That was in the early 1940s when the peregrine population was still healthy in North America.

By the mid 1960s Dr. Cade was the head of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the peregrine population was in free fall, and he could see it happening. The situation so alarming that he and other raptor experts were desperately trying to find out why before it was too late.

In 1965 they convened a conference about the peregrine’s decline at the University of Wisconsin, Madison that became the catalyst for peregrine recovery. At that point they knew the decline was due to DDT and dieldrin but they had no proof. (Proof came later from Derek Ratcliffe.) Meanwhile, agricultural experts argued it couldn’t be caused by pesticides; the pesticides were so useful.

In a 2015 video on the 50th anniversary of the Madison Conference, Tom Cade told how the conference changed the peregrines’ future. The transformational moment came when Jim Rice, a renowned falconer and naturalist from Pennsylvania, spoke nine words. It changed Tom Cade’s life. See him tell the story here.

After the conference Tom Cade was key in all that happened next, especially in shaping the captive breeding program and peregrine reintroduction. DDT and dieldrin were outlawed in the early 1970s. By 1999 peregrine falcons were plentiful enough in the western United States that they were removed from the Endangered Species List.

In 1970 Tom Cade co-founded The Peregrine Fund and worked with them for the rest of his life to conserve raptors around the world. See their tribute and remembrance video here.

We all stand on the shoulders of the great conservationists who went before us. We mourn Tom Cade’s loss but we celebrate his incredible contribution to conservation and to peregrine falcons.

Thank you, Tom Cade. Your inspiration lives on.

Read Tom Cade’s obituary in the New York Times. His book, Tom Cade: A Life in Science and Conservation by Tom Cade and Clinton M. Blount is available here on Amazon. The cover, which illustrates this article, shows Tom Cade with his gyrfalcon, Krumpkin, 2008.

(credits: Information on Tom Cade’s life is drawn in part from his obituary in the New York Times. photo: Cover of Tom Cade: A Life in Science and Conservation by Tom Cade and Clinton M. Blount via Amazon)