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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
Though two of the chicks passed away I am happy to learn that the remaining two were fostered in a wild peregrine nest on a cliff in north central Pennsylvania.
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.
“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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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
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.
Elizabeth Bridge, Monongahela River, Allegheny County
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
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.
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.
If you can’t imagine how #1 got into the gutter, here he is as he makes that decision.
By late afternoon one of them — probably #2 — was so tired that he slept on top of the nestbox.
Fifteen minutes later he was awake and ready for more.
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!)
When I arrived at Fledge Watch I saw a peregrine on the parents’ favorite perch — a stone peak at 38SE on the Cathedral of Learning — but it wasn’t one of the parents. Through my scope I saw a dark brown juvenile. He’d made his first flight when we weren’t watching. Of course.
He was the only one visible for about an hour. Then his brother appeared on the wall above the nest (on the “railing”).
Meanwhile their parents, Hope and Terzo, put on a flight show, swooping together, circling the building, climbing and diving. “Here’s how to fly!”
They flew close to their youngsters, “Come on out here!” In Peter Bell’s photo at top, Hope looks at the fledgling as she flies by. Below, he shouts and flaps like crazy when she approaches, but he stays put.
When we left at 1:30p, all four birds were still in their places: the parents in flight and the two youngsters as circled in John English’s photo below.
Michelle Kienholz stopped by after work and the birds’ positions hadn’t changed.
Perhaps the second juvenile will fly today. Stop by Schenley Plaza for Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch today — May 30, 2018, 11:30a to 1:30p — weather permitting. We won’t be there if it’s raining.
UPDATE, May 30, 2018, 2pm: As of 2pm the youngster who fledged yesterday was flying well and perching in many places at the top of the building. His brother was still on the railing and hadn’t flown despite great encouragement from his parents. In the photo below: #1 Fledgling lounges in the gutter of the Babcock Room roof, #2 is still on the railing and Hope flies overhead dangling food at them. No one budged.
UPDATE, May 30, 2018, 5pm: At 4:30pm one of the youngsters was so tired he took a nap on top of the nestbox.