Category Archives: Peregrines

Of Course Terzo Is Back

Terzo at the Pitt peregrine nest, 27 Sept 2020, 10:21am (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

28 September 2020

That didn’t take long! The ink on my article was barely dry.

As soon as I wrote about Ecco’s prolonged presence at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest and speculated that he had won the territory, the revolving door of Pitt’s male peregrines turned again.

Terzo is back.

Yesterday afternoon I glanced up and saw a peregrine zip around the top of the Cathedral of Learning and come screaming in to land on the east face. This is a move I’ve seen Terzo do many times before so I wondered if it was him. Yes it is.

Terzo at the Pitt peregrine nest, 27 Sept 2020, 10:38am

The revolving door has been spinning since February. It was silly of me to think Terzo and Ecco would stop it now.

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

Ecco and Morela

Morela and Ecco bowing at Pitt peregrine nest, 25 Sept 2020 (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

27 September 2020

Snapshots from the Pitt peregrine falconcam show that Ecco has been spending lots of time with Morela at the Cathedral of Learning since Friday 18 September. His extended presence is unusual and may indicate a change of male peregrine leadership.

This summer both Terzo (Morela’s original mate, now age 7) and Ecco (her young suitor, now age 2) have been present but usually seen on camera only three times a month. Since 18 September Ecco has been on camera almost every day for extended periods of time, bowing with Morela for 15 minutes to half an hour.

There was a hint that Ecco was gaining ascendance when he and Morela bowed for 15 minutes on 4 September.

Morela on perch, Ecco calling at Pitt peregrine nest, 4 Sept 2020

Neither male made an appearance until 10 September, the last day Terzo was seen on camera. Terzo spent most of that day sunning (see photo below), probably guarding his territory.

The last time Terzo was seen on camera, 10 Sept 2020

After the 10th no male peregrines were on camera until 18 September when Ecco and Morela visited the nest a couple of times beginning at dawn …

Morela and Ecco courting at dawn, 18 Sept 2020

… and again at 10:30am.

Morela and Ecco courting for a second time on 18 Sept 2020, 10:36

They reappeared on 21 September …

Ecco and Morela at Pitt peregrine nest, 21 Sept 2020

… and for several long visits on Friday 25 September.

Morela and Ecco at Pitt peregrine nest, 25 Sept 2020

Yesterday, 26 September the pair again visited frequently for prolonged periods. Here Ecco twists his head to look at Morela, a move that’s usually reserved for close contact.

Ecco seemed more confident yesterday, so comfortable that he perched at the nest for about half an hour.

Ecco at the Pitt peregrine nest, 26 Sept 2020, 13:17 (snapshot from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Perhaps Ecco and Terzo have finally determined who rules at the Cathedral of Learning and Ecco is the winner.

We can’t be sure yet. We’ll have to wait and see if there’s another turnover.

Meanwhile we know Morela rules. 😉

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

The Threesome Continues

27 July 2020

Last Friday Mary Ann Pike noticed that Terzo and Morela were spending a lot of time at the Pitt peregrine nest and commented:

Seems like Morela and Terzo have been swapping shifts at the nest today. I saw Morela this morning, then Terzo early afternoon for a while, now Morela is there again. What a strange situation with Ecco in the mix. I wonder if he hangs around Oakland somewhere when he’s not on camera. It seems like the other 2 must be spending most of their time in Oakland but under normal circumstances they wouldn’t let a third Peregrine hang around.

Mary Ann Pike, 24 July 2020, 4:33pm

We didn’t realize it on Friday but Terzo and Morela were probably vigilant because Ecco was nearby. He appeared on camera before dawn.

In the video below Ecco arrives at 5:33am to bow with Morela. After he leaves Morela pauses for 45 seconds, then we hear a peregrine wailing at 3:28 in the video. The wailing continues intermittently over the next three minutes. Was it Terzo complaining that Ecco was there?

The rest of 24 July was very busy. Morela and Terzo bowed at 8:30a and 3:30p.

Morela and Terzo court, 24 July 2020, 8:30am

Terzo sunbathed and watched for two hours.

Then Morela hung out and preened for three hours. I’m happy to see that Morela’s flipped primary feather is gone.

Terzo and Morela courted at dawn on Sunday morning. There was no sign of Ecco but I’m sure he’ll return.

However, the threesome continues at the Pitt peregrine nest.

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

p.s. The National Aviary falconcam streaming service ends on 31 July 2020. It will resume next February.

Young Raptors As Home Wreckers

Immature bald eagle, March 2015 (photo by Steve Gosser)

Something is happening among nesting bald eagles in the James River watershed that may explain what we’re seeing among peregrines in western Pennsylvania. There are lots of eagles at the James River but less nesting success than in the past. The Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia has figured out why.

CCB has been conducting bald eagle nesting surveys every March since the 1970s. Seven years after DDT was banned they found only one pair of bald eagles in the watershed. This year there are 319 pairs.

Meanwhile, “eagle productivity has dropped as the population has grown and breeding density has increased.” The number of eaglets per nest peaked at 1.6+ in the mid 1990s but has dropped to only 1.05 today.

Lower nesting success is not a food problem, it’s a competition problem. CCB explains:

The mechanism causing the decline does not appear to be traditional resource competition where pairs scramble for their share of limited fish. Rather, the mechanism appears to be young marauding eagles that are disrupting territory holders and competing for a limited set of viable breeding territories.

Young bald eagles are harassing adult pairs in an attempt to gain a territory — so much so that some pairs fail to nest successfully.

Adult and immature bald eagles jousting (photo by Steve Gosser)

This sounds like what happened at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest this year. In February a young male, Ecco, showed up at the Pitt nest and persistently vied for the site — so much so that Morela didn’t lay eggs until May and her eggs were never incubated. Hmmmm.

Young bald eagles are home wreckers. Maybe young peregrines are, too.

Read more about the James River bald eagle population at CCB’s James River Eagle Population Continues to Soar While Productivity Continues to Fall.

(photos by Steve Gosser)

Seen Downtown

15 July 2020

The Downtown peregrine falcon youngsters are growing up though few of us are there to see them. Downtown feels empty because the COVID-19 crisis has most people working from home. Fortunately, Ann Hohn was in her Gulf Tower office at Make-A-Wish Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia on 13 July when two peregrines stopped by. She sent me this photo and wrote:

We  spotted this youngster outside the office. There was an adult with it but it flew and was circling. Is it one of the youngsters from our falcon pair who have been nesting elsewhere in town? It’s definitely a young one.

Yes! This is one of the Downtown youngsters. Too bad the adult flew away before Ann could get a picture.

I’m glad the peregrines still visit the Gulf Tower though they haven’t nested there for many years. The nestbox was removed in January 2019 when the building began critical masonry and roof repairs. I hope the repairs are finished in time to re-install the nestbox for the 2021 nesting season.

Thank you, Ann Hohn, for this happy news.

(photo by Ann Hohn)

Pair Bonding With Ecco

Ecco and Morela touch beaks at the Pitt peregrine nest, 11 July 2020, 5:45am

13 July 2020

It’s almost mid-July yet two peregrine falcons, Ecco and Morela, are pair bonding at the Pitt peregrine nest in a very serious way. On Saturday 11 July they courted twice and touched beaks in a close bond before dawn.

For five months Morela has had two suitors, Terzo and Ecco. In early June Terzo was a constant presence, then Ecco reappeared on 16 June and both males courted her twice on 25 June. After that Terzo faded away and Morela was alone until Ecco reappeared on 9 July.

I should have seen him coming. My first hint was when Morela spent five hours roosting at the nest rail on the night of 8-9 July from 9p to 2a. Female peregrines usually don’t roost at the nest outside the breeding season. Here she is on the 8 July 2020 “Night in a Minute” video.

The next morning, Morela and Ecco courted for almost four minutes.

The 10th of July was quiet but they returned before dawn on 11 July, courting for three minutes and touching beaks. Beak-touching is more intimate than merely bowing. These two are hitting it off as a couple.

Less than three hours later, at 8:27a, Morela returned with a full crop and courted with Ecco for another three minutes.

I don’t put a lot of stock in the permanence of Morela’s bond with Ecco since he and Terzo trade places so often. However, it’s intriguing to see that she’s so close to Ecco.

Meanwhile, here’s something to ponder …

Why does Morela have a flipped primary feather?

Female peregrines usually molt their primaries during incubation (April/May) so I was surprised to see one of Morela’s primaries is flipped on her right wing. The feather was normal until the morning of 27 June when Morela returned to the nest rail. She preened and stayed there for five hours as shown in the Day in a Minute video .

So far the flipped feather has stayed in that position for 16 days. If it had flipped due to molting, the new feather would have pushed it out by now. So I wonder, was Morela in an aerial battle on 27 June? Even if we knew the answer, we’ll never know who her adversary was.

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

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)