Category Archives: Peregrines

Seen at 62nd Street Bridge

Banded female peregrine 48/N seen near Hulton Bridge, 4 Jan 2019 (photo by Gina Gilmore)

On Monday 26 August 2019 I received a text message from Dan Yagusic while he was looking at a peregrine perched on the 62nd Street Bridge. The bird was banded: Black/Blue 48/N.

I replied, “I think I know that bird. Will look her up and text you back.”

Sure enough, she’s the peregrine falcon who spent part of last winter near the Hulton Bridge on the bald eagle side(*) of the Allegheny River. Gina Gilmore took many photos of her and was able to read her bands. 48/N is a female who hatched on the Tower Building in South Bend, Indiana in 2016.

Dan said, “I was at the bridge for five minutes when she flew in with a pigeon and gave me a great look at her band while she ate breakfast.”

So now we’ve seen three peregrines at or near the 62nd Street Bridge in just two months.

It’s beginning to look like there was a peregrine family at the 62nd Street Bridge this year. Maybe they used the nestbox. Dan says it’s in good condition.

Read more about 48/N and see more of Gina’s photos in this post from last January.

(*) The “bald eagle side” is on the north side of the Allegheny River. It’s where photographers stand to take pictures of the Harmar eagles.

(photo by Gina Gilmore)

Seen Downtown This Week

Peregrine outside his window. Photo by Matt Orres, 21 August 2019

On Wednesday 21 August, Matt Orres emailed me two photos of a peregrine outside his window at the Union Trust Building. I knew it couldn’t be Louie (he died in June at age 17) but the next photo confirmed the bird’s identity.

Though her bands aren’t visible, the long dark flecks on her breast and the shape of her face indicate to me that this bird is Dori.

Dori up close, Downtown Pittsburgh, 21 Aug 2019 (photo by Matt Orres)

Click here to compare a closeup of Dori in May 2019.

Why does she look so ragged? Because she’s molting.

August is “down time” for Pittsburgh’s peregrines, the perfect time to molt.

(photos by Matt Orres)

Peregrine Sightings Here and There

Peregrine at the Freeport Bridge, 15 August 2019 (photo by Dave Brooke)

There usually aren’t many peregrine sightings in August, but we had a few from here and there.

Freeport, PA: On August 6 Sean Brady was canoeing down the Allegheny River on a group trip from Kinzua Dam to Pittsburgh when he saw two peregrines at the Freeport Bridge (Route 356). On August 15 Dave Brooke stopped by the Butler-Freeport Trail and got this photo of a peregrine perched on the bridge. It stayed there for at least 30 minutes. Perhaps it feels at home.

Here’s an aerial view of the Freeport Bridge from downriver …

Freeport Bridge over the Allegheny River (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

… and Dave’s photo showing where the peregrine was perched.

Peregrine on the Freeport Bridge, 15 August 2019 (photo by Dave Brooke)

If you go to Freeport, Dave provided this map showing where he stood to see the bird.

Map of Freeport peregrine location from Dave Brooke

Sharpsburg, PA: On the night of August 6, Sharpsburg Police rescued an injured adult peregrine near the corner of Main Street and 6th Street. (Update: I have since learned that this peregrine was so badly injured that it had to be euthanized.)

Injured peregrine rescued in Sharpsburg, 6 August 2019 (photo courtesy Sharpsburg Police Dept)

The injured bird was found only a few blocks from the 62nd Street Bridge where peregrines may have nested this year. A fledgling was seen on the City of Pittsburgh side on July 3.

62nd Street Bridge from the Sharpsburg side (photo by Dan Yagusic, 2007)

This Google map shows where peregrines have been seen this year near the 62nd Street Bridge.

Hopewell, Virginia: On Monday August 12 my husband and I were the first car in line waiting 15+ minutes for the deck to lift while a boat passed under the Benjamin Harrison Lift Bridge in Hopewell, Virginia. This is the bridge where Hope, the resident female peregrine at the Cathedral of Learning, was born.

Benjamin Harrison Bridge from Jordan Point Marina, looking north (photo by VADOT, Creative Commons license via Flickr)

While we waited, a juvenile osprey perched very close to my side of the car. When the bridge deck finally started coming down (slowly!) a peregrine flew off the superstructure, zoomed right past our windshield and knocked the osprey off its perch. It then pumped out over the river and back up to the tower.  Wow! So close! I was cheering!

Was that peregrine one of Hope’s parents? I don’t think so. Hope is 11 years old … but you never know.

p.s. It never occurred to me to take a picture of the osprey or the bridge until we were miles away. 🙁

(photos by Dave Brooke, Wikimedia Commons, Sharpsburg Police Department, Dan Yagusic and VA DOT; click on the captions to see the originals)

Williamsport Peregrine: Happy News

Rehabbed juvenile peregrine released in Lebanon County, PA (screenshot from video)

Though peregrines have spent the winter in Williamsport, PA for more than a decade, none nested there until a pair claimed the Market Street Bridge in 2013. This year’s nest produced one chick with an unusual condition called angel wing. It would have died if it hadn’t been rescued. Fortunately the young bird fully recovered at Red Creek Wildlife Center and was released on Monday, 12 August 2019 at Middle Creek WMA.

Most of the story is told in this video on Red Creek Wildlife Center’s Facebook page. Here’s a little more information from PA Game Commission Peregrine Coordinator Art McMorris who took the video.

“The peregrine nest on the Market St. Bridge in Williamsport is in a location that’s very difficult to see. Members of the Lycoming Audubon Society monitor the nest and on June 9 they saw a nestling, the first evidence that the peregrines were even nesting this year.

“On June 15 Bobby Brown got a photo of the nestling, near fledging age; the photo showed defective feather development on its left wing. This couldn’t be seen when looking at the bird with binoculars or scope. In that condition, if it tried to fledge, we feared it would spiral like a maple seed and end up in the river, so a rescue mission was hastily organized.

“PennDOT District 3 provided a snooper crane, and on June 19, with a storm rapidly blowing in, PGC’s Dan Brauning, Sean Murphy and Mario Giazzon rescued the bird from the bridge and took it to Red Creek Wildlife Center.

“On the video, Peggy Hentz of Red Creek describes the bird’s condition, prognosis and treatment with the help of Radnor Veterinary Hospital. In early August the bird was ready for release so on Monday August 12, Peggy brought it to Middle Creek, Patti Barber banded it and attached a Motus nanotag, and we released her. A great success story all around!”

Click here to watch the video on Red Creek Wildlife Center’s Facebook page. (You don’t have to be on Facebook to see it.)

p.s. You may be wondering: What is angel wing?

As Peggy Hentz explains in the video, angel wing is a syndrome normally seen only in ducks and geese, especially those fed a poor diet. (Bread is the usual cause of angel wing.)

The syndrome is acquired in young birds while forming their wing feathers and can be treated in rehab if caught early. It’s incurable in adults.

In the photo below, this muscovy duck has angel wing. The last joint on both wings is twisted and the deformed feathers point out instead of lying flat against the body. Like all birds with angel wing, this duck cannot fly. It will lead to his early death.

Muscovy duck with angel wing syndrome (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(screenshot from video at Red Creek Wildlife Center Facebook page; angel wing photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Sleepy Day In The Rain

What does an urban peregrine falcon do on a rainy day?

Between flash-flood downpours on July 22, Pittsburgh’s weather was dreary and wet. The old Gulf Tower snapshot camera found Dori snoozing on a pillar for half an hour that morning.

Based on the photos I can tell this is Dori by her size, plumage, and the fact that she’s banded. When her eyes look white she’s closing her third eyelid (nictitating membrane) to take a nap.

Dori was having a sleepy day in the rain.

p.s. Since Dori obviously likes the Gulf Tower will she nest there next year? Unfortunately, repairs to the Gulf Tower roof are more extensive than originally estimated so the nestbox won’t be in place for the 2020 nesting season. Dori will have to nest elsewhere. She will probably choose Third Ave again.

(snapshots from the old Gulf Tower falconcam)

Preparing to Track a Young Peregrine

On June 10, 2019 the PA Game Commission (PGC) rescued, banded and MOTUS nano-tagged one of Downtown Pittsburgh’s five peregrine fledglings. As of June 27 our bird was one of eight Pennsylvania peregrines fitted with a tracking device for a PGC study that will learn where urban-born peregrines go and how many survive their challenging first year of life.

The video above, narrated by PGC’s Patti Barber, shows what the tagging process was like. She fit a young peregrine with a MOTUS tag and released it near its rooftop nest. The peregrine wore a falconry hood during the fitting to keep him calm.

Tagged birds rejoin their families immediately. On June 20 Lori Maggio photographed our Downtown MOTUS peregrine hanging out with a sibling more than week after he was released.

Two juvenile peregrines in Downtown Pittsburgh, one has a MOTUS nanotag, 20 June 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is assisting PGC with the study and wrote an informative blog post about the project. Read it here.

p.s. The video was not filmed in Pittsburgh. It’s in Harrisburg. (Thanks to John English for telling me the location.)

(video by PA Game Commission, photo by Lori Maggio)

Remembering Louie: 2002 – 2019

In late June, after five young peregrines fledged from Pittsburgh’s Third Avenue nest, their father Louie was found dead at age 17. He was exceptionally old for a wild peregrine but longevity was in his genes.

Louie hatched in 2002, the son of Dorothy and Erie during their first successful year at the Cathedral of Learning. Dorothy fledged 43 young at Pitt before she disappeared at age 16.5.

Dorothy was the daughter of Sibella and Bill who were both part of The Peregrine Fund‘s Midwest Peregrine Recovery Program. Sibella nested at the First Wisconsin Building in Milwaukee through her 15th year. With a long-lived mother and grandmother it’s no wonder Louie made it to 17.

Louie started breeding early. In 2003 he was one year old when he won Pittsburgh’s Downtown territory. It was a tumultuous spring with two females and two males vying for the Gulf Tower nest. In the end Louie fought and killed Boris at the nestbox and became Tasha’s mate.

From 2003-2009 Louie fledged 24 young with Tasha. In her last breeding year he was especially protective of her on Banding Day.

The next year, 2010, was Louie’s chance to shine. In late March Dori defeated Tasha and became a first-time parent. Louie showed her the ropes as described in the links below:

Louie was versatile. In their years together he and Dori moved their nest from year to year using three sites to fledge 39 young.

In 2012 they chose a cubbyhole on 3rd Avenue where they’ve nested 5 times. In 2015 they nested at Macy’s Annex. In 2014 and 2017 they returned to the Gulf Tower.

2018 ended sadly at Third Avenue when the Keystone Flats development was granted a Special Takings Permit and had their chicks removed. This year they were back at Third Avenue to raise and fledge five young. Louie was a good dad to the end.

All told Louie fathered 63 young peregrines. Like his mother Dorothy, Louie was the head of a dynasty.

(photos by Brian Cohen, Ann Hohn, Lori Maggio, Maria Ochoa, Matt Orres and the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Peregrine Fledging at 62nd Street Bridge

On Wednesday July 3, Joe Stavish of Tree Pittsburgh saw an immature peregrine standing on a rock pile in Tree Pittsburgh‘s parking lot below the 62nd Street Bridge. Joe emailed me:

I found an immature peregrine in the parking lot at Tree Pittsburgh (under 62nd street bridge) on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. We have noticed [peregrine] adults flying around the tree nursery this spring. This one was a bit clumsy moving around the rock pile but ultimately flew off. I could not see any band on the legs. Not sure if it came from the 62nd street bridge but perhaps!

Joe Stavish email, 5 July 2019

Here’s a Google Street View of that end of 62nd Street. Tree Pittsburgh is beyond the chain link fence on the left side of the image, though it didn’t exist when Google took this photo.

At this point (early/mid July) it’s too late to find the peregrines’ nest but keep an eye out for them beginning next January at the 62nd Street Bridge.

NOTE! A nestbox was installed on the bridge in January 2008. If it’s still on the bridge the peregrines might be using it.

In January 2008 a nestbox was installed at the 62nd Street Bridge (photo from PGC). Is the nestbox still there?

Downtown Peregrine News, June 28

Immature Downtown peregrine, nanotagged with MOTUS tracking, at USX Tower window on 19 June 2019 (photo by Jason Walkowski)

A lot has happened in the Downtown peregrine family since I left for vacation on June 12. Here’s a summary of the last 17 days with photos from Jason Walkowski, Maria Ochoa, Lori Maggio, and John English.

There were five nestlings at the Third Avenue nest and at least five rescues.

  1. June 8: Rescue from Third Ave.
  2. June 9: Rescue after found standing on a car roof on the Boulevard of the Allies.
  3. June 10: Rescue at 304 Wood Street. The PA Game Commission banded and nanotagged this bird for MOTUS tracking.
  4. June 12: Rescue from a Point Park shuttle bus shelter.
  5. June 12: Second in one day! Rescue from Dollar Bank front steps on Fourth Ave during evening rush hour.

All of this activity kept the rescue porch very busy. Below, Louie reflects from the rescue porch railing outside Maria Ochoa’s apartment on June 11 …

Louie reflects at the Rescue Porch, 11 June 2019 (photo by Maria Ochoa)

… while Dori bypasses loud whining from one of the fledglings.

Dori flies away from a whining fledgling at the Rescue Porch, 11 June 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

On June 12 this bird was a candidate for the fifth rescue, having chosen a lousy place to perch on the Dollar Bank roof.

Candidate for later rescue at Dollar Bank, 12 June 2019 (photo by John English)

Within a week the young peregrines were flying well. On June 14 Lori Maggio watched a low-perched youngster fly up to a much better location. On June 19 Jason Walkowski photographed the nanotagged bird outside his window on the 31st floor at USX Tower (photo at top).

Youngster lands on the Engineering Building, much higher than his previous perch, 14 June 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Lori Maggio found the nanotagged bird on June 20, perched with a sibling high above Third Avenue.

Two youngsters perch high above the old nest, 20 June 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Dori is now teaching the youngsters how to hunt. Her mate Louie, age 17, was found dead on June 27. He was very, very old for a wild peregrine and outlived his mother Dorothy by 1.5 years. I’ll post a tribute blog for Louie in the coming days.

Louie at Lawrence Hall, 20 May 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

For now the Fledge Watchers are breathing a sigh of relief. The Downtown peregrine “kids” are airborne on their way. Whew!

(photos by Jason Walkowski, Maria Ochoa, Lori Maggio and John English)

All Five Have Flown

Dori perched on the shield at 3rd & Wood (photo by Lori Maggio)
Dori perched on the shield at 3rd & Wood (photo by Lori Maggio)

As of 8:25am this morning, 12 June 2019, Lori Maggio reports that the peregrine nest at Third Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh looks empty. She found 4 of the 5 youngsters and — great news! — the one on the Rescue Porch this morning has a MOTUS nanotag so we’ll know where he goes!

The tagged bird is probably the one rescued from 304 Wood Street on Monday. Because he’s tagged & returned we know he isn’t injured.

Thankfully everyone waited for the Game Warden to arrive & rescue the bird. Thanks to MOTUS we will know where he goes. Click here to read more about the nanotags.

(photo by Lori Maggio)

UPDATE at 11:15a, 12 June 2019 (while I wait in an airport): 4th bird found down in a bus shelter on Boulevard of Allies & taken to Rescue Porch at 11:10am on 12 June 2019.

Fledgling Rescue #4 at the bus stop (photo by Amanda Anderson)

UPDATE at 5:15p, 12 June 2019: 5th downed peregrine found standing on Dollar Back steps on Third Avenue. PGC called to rescue. I’m waiting to hear if this one gets nanotagged.

So as of 13 June 2019 there have been 5 rescues of 5 birds. They could still land on the street so keep an eye out for downed peregrines in Downtown Pittsburgh.