It’s been hard to schedule this year’s Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch because I can’t guess when the chicks will fledge. Their first flight depends on their sex — males fledge earlier than females — and now I’ve learned that this year’s chicks are male.
Here’s the Pitt Fledge Watch schedule, then I’ll tell you about the male/female thing.
Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch Schedule, 2018
When: Friday, May 25 through Wednesday May 30, 11:30a – 1:30p. (Sun. May 27 is 11a-1p) Click here for the calendar. Where: At the Schenley Plaza tent. Click here for a Google map. Parking is free on Sundays. Who: Join me and/or John English of Pittsburgh Falconuts to watch peregrines and swap stories. Except … We will not be there in rain or thunder. Also, Fledge Watch will end when they’re flying and hard to track. (Example: If they fly on Tuesday we won’t be there on Wednesday.)
! Check the Events page for updates before you come to Schenley Plaza !
Why the two “female” chicks are male:
Are they male? Yes. Here’s why.
Among peregrine falcons, females are always larger than males. At banding age the weight of peregrine chicks indicates their sex. The rough rule of thumb is: Under 700 grams is male, greater or equal to 700 grams is female.
On Banding Day May 11 at the Cathedral of Learning, the Pitt chicks’ weights were borderline. In that case, chicks are given the larger (“female”) bands so that the rings won’t bind if they turn out to be female.
As time passed and we saw them mature on camera Dan Brauning and Art McMorris emailed me with a revision. Both chicks are male.
It doesn’t matter that they have larger “female” bands. These chicks are listed as male in PA Game Commission records.
I thought that the downstairs chick would eventually return to the nest but this morning the opposite happened. When the down under chick got his breakfast the upstairs chick couldn’t stand missing out so he jumped into the gully to be fed.
Now they’re all off camera.
I doubt they’ll bother to come upstairs before they fly.
p.s. Dorothy, the previous female peregrine who lived at the Cathedral of Learning for 15 years, did not feed chicks in the gully. Apparently she wanted all of them together upstairs — and coincidentally on camera. Hope doesn’t play by Dorothy’s rules.
11:00am: Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch. Meet at the Schenley Plaza tent.
Parking is FREE on Sundays.
Note! The 10-day weather forecast calls for thunderstorms on May 27 but that could change. If it’s storming these outings will be canceled. I don’t do lightning.
Schenley Park Bird and Nature Walk, May 27, 8:30a – 10:30a.
Join me for a bird & nature walk in Schenley Park on Sunday, May 27, 8:30a – 10:30a.
We’ll meet me at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center to see what’s popping in the park since our birdless walk in April. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them.
Rose-breasted grosbeaks nest in Schenley Park. Will we see one? I hope so!
Click here for more information and in case of cancellation.
… and then …
As soon as the bird walk is over, I’ll adjourn to Schenley Plaza to look for peregrines. (I will start the watch immediately when I get there. The 11a start time insures that peregrine fans will find me even if our bird walk runs late.)
Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch, May 27, 11a – 1p.
When will the Pitt peregrine chicks fly from the Cathedral of Learning? I don’t know but I’m sure they’ll be fun to watch on Memorial Day weekend.
Join me at the Schenley Plaza tent on Sunday May 27 11a – 1p for a Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch. We’ll swap peregrine stories and get close-up looks at the peregrines through my scope.
Click here for a Google map of Schenley Plaza. Don’t forget to check the Events page for last minute updates before you come. Fledge Watch will be canceled if it’s raining or thundering.
p.s. A complete Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch schedule will be posted later this week. This year it’s harder than usual to predict when these birds will fly!
(photo of a rose-breasted grosbeak by Cris Hamilton, photo of Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch 2017 by John English, photo of the Schenley Plaza tent photo by Kate St. John)
Humane Animal Rescue, Update, May 15 at 6:22pm: Rehabilitators at our Wildlife Center continue to provide care for the four chicks removed from a Third Avenue building in Downtown Pittsburgh last week. While the birds are still reliant on staff members wearing our Peregrine puppet for food, they’ve begun to show interest in eating on their own.
Meanwhile, Dori and Louie are rarely seen at their former Third Avenue nest site. Click here for the entire story.
2. Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh
Two chicks were banded at the Cathedral of Learning on 11 May 2018. On Wednesday, May 16, one was bumped off the nest into the gully a few feet below, so now one is topside and the other is underside.
The underside chick’s movements are easy to follow from Schenley Plaza because his mother and father, Hope and Terzo, perch above him along the bulwark.
3. Westinghouse Bridge over Turtle Creek, Monongahela watershed, Allegheny County
On Thursday May 10, Dan Brauning and April Sperfslage of the PA Game Commission visited the Westinghouse Bridge to check on nesting activity. They found three chicks too young to band — about 15 days old — and two protective parents. The male’s bands were confirmed as black/green, 19/W, nicknamed George. The female is unbanded, nicknamed Rose for her rosy cheeks.
If you’d like to watch onsite, click here for a map of 3 viewing locations. The best one is Elder Street (yellow X).
4. Elizabeth Bridge, Monongahela River, Allegheny County
Our newest peregrine family is nesting at the Elizabeth Bridge over the Monongahela River at Elizabeth, PA. Click here for details and where to watch.
5. McKees Rocks Bridge, Ohio River, Allegheny County
On May 11, PGC’s Dan Brauning and April Sperfslage checked the McKees Rocks bridge for signs of nesting activity but only found two unattended eggs at last year’s nest site. When John English and I stopped by on Tuesday May 15, we saw no peregrines on the bridge but two soaring together downriver. It appears that this nest has failed.
6. Neville Island I-79 Bridge, Ohio River, Allegheny County
Whenever you visit the Neville Island I-79 Bridge you are likely to see a peregrine but it’s always on the Glenfield side. Dan Brauning says the nest is on that end of the bridge this year, though he couldn’t get up there to check when he and April visited on May 10. We can’t be sure of the adults’ identities but they were confirmed three years ago as Magnum (Canton, 2010) and Beau (Cathedral of Learning, 2010, son of Dorothy and E2).
7. Monaca-East Rochester Bridge, Rt 51, Ohio River, Beaver County
When John English and I visited Rochester’s Riverfront Park on May 15, we were surprised to see an osprey nesting on top of the Monaca-Beaver railroad bridge. I’d assumed the peregrines would nest there this year but Scott Gregg reports that they have moved to the Monaca-East Rochester Rt 51 bridge because of conflicts with the ospreys. On 4/26 Scott found the peregrines nesting on the same platform under the Rt 51 deck as in prior years. However on 5/6 and 5/13 he couldn’t confirm chicks. John and I saw no peregrines there at all on May 15.
If you’re in the vicinity, look for peregrines on the power towers near the bridge. Let me know what you see.
8. Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny River, Allegheny-Westmoreland Counties
The Tarentum Bridge is one of our newest success stories. Several years before she moved to Pitt, Hope used to nest in cubbyholes in the arch of the Tarentum Bridge but her nest sites were always over water and dangerous for fledgings. In 2015 the PA Game Commission installed a nestbox on the bridge pier. Hope never used it but this year a new peregrine couple has taken up residence.
On Monday May 14 when John English and I visited the bridge we found the female in the nestbox. John’s photo above shows the location of the nestbox. My digiscoped photo shows the female inside it. Stand on the sidewalk on 1st Avenue with a scope or high-powered camera for this view.
On Tuesday evening May 15, Rob Protz reported the first food delivery to the box at 5:40pm. The eggs have hatched!
9. The Graff Bridge, Route 422 Kittanning, Allegheny River, Armstrong County
This photo by Tony Bruno in 2017 shows there are indeed peregrines at the Graff Bridge, Rt 422 Kittanning, but now they are hard to see. On Monday May 14 John English walked the Armstrong Trail at Manorville to get under the bridge for a better view. We moved upriver a bit and were pleased to see a peregrine arrive with prey and pluck it vigorously on the West Kittanning side. We think they’re nesting.
Peek through the trees along the Armstrong Trail, upriver from Manorville, and you might see a peregrine. Bring a scope or a high-powered camera!
1. Downtown: screenshot from a video on Humane Animal Rescue’s Facebook page,
2. Cathedral of Learning: photos from the National Aviary falconcams
3. Westinghouse Bridge: photos by April Sperfslage, PGC
4. Elizabeth Bridge: photo by Dana Nesiti, Eagles of Hays PA
5. McKees Rocks Bridge: photo from from Wikimedia Commons
6. Neville Island I-79 Bridge: photo by April Sperfslage, PGC
7. Monaca-East Rochester Bridge: photo by Steve Leiendecker, PGC
8. Tarentum Bridge: photos by John English and Kate St. John
9. Graff Bridge, Rt 422: photo by Anthony Bruno)
It happens every year. At 28-35 days old, one of the Pitt peregrine chicks stumbles off the nest surface into the gully below. People watching the camera get worried. The chick will be fine.
Today (5/16/2018) at 2:52p there was confusion on the nest surface as Hope brought in a dead red-winged blackbird for the afternoon snack. One of the chicks backed up to the edge of the box and lost his balance. Oops! He disappeared from view.
The video above shows what happened. We can still hear him! He is close by and he is very annoyed!
Soon he’ll start exploring below and eating the scraps that fell from above. His parents will bring him food. He might come back to the nest or he might not. He doesn’t need to. He’s fine.
CORRECTION on FRIDAY MAY 18: I was wrong when I thought the chick’s parents would not feed him in the gully. He is getting fed where he is so he has no reason to come back up to the gravel where you can see him on camera.
Here’s why I was confused: Dorothy (the previous female peregrine who lived at the Cathedral of Learning for 15 years) did not feed a chick in the gully; she waited for the chick to return. After 15 years of watching Dorothy I thought all peregrines were like her. Hope doesn’t play by Dorothy’s rules. Hope feeds the chick no matter where he is.
For more information on the area below the nest and video footage of a chick returning to the nest, see this vintage blog from 2015: Below The Nest.
A Note to Commenters: Watch the video of the chick climbing back into the nest at this link — Below The Nest — before you comment.
p.s. Humans cannot go back to the nest now without risking the death of one/both chicks. The chicks are beyond banding age, very active but they cannot fly. Nonetheless, they will jump to their deaths to escape predators (i.e. humans). Human intervention at this point would be deadly.
There’s a new pair of peregrines in the Pittsburgh region and they’ve already got a family.
Back on March 4 I saw one peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge as I was driving home from Westmoreland County. I was excited because March is peregrine nesting season, they’d never nested at this bridge before, and they hadn’t been seen here since 2015. One bird doesn’t mean a pair … but it was worth a look.
Reports fell silent for seven weeks and then two peregrines were active at the bridge in late April. Did their eggs hatch? If so, where?
On May 2, Elizabeth Cain saw them checking out several cubbyholes. On May 6 Dana Nesiti photographed an adult carrying food into this truss connector. They certainly have chicks!
Dana circled the peregrines’ location on his photo below. The connector is labeled “U9” because the bridge is under renovation. Notice the paint-shrouding at deck level!
Here are more of Dana’s action shots.
I stopped by the Elizabeth Bridge on Sunday May 13 and saw the peregrines team up to chase away a turkey vulture and wail at a passing raven. They were invisible from the gazebo on South Water Street so I digi-scoped them from the Waterfront parking lot. Notice that the female has closed her eyes!
If you’d like to see these birds for yourself, stop by Elizabeth Waterfront Park on the Monongahela River in Elizabeth, PA. Go all the way down to the river. They might be out hunting when you arrive, but be patient and they’ll come home. Here’s a map:
The Elizabeth Bridge peregrines bring our southwestern Pennsylvania total to 9 nest sites:
Cathedral of Learning
Westinghouse Bridge (Turtle Creek near Monongahela River)
Update from Humane Animal Rescue on their Facebook page, May 11, 2018: We’re pleased to report that the four chicks admitted to our Wildlife Center on Tuesday are progressing well. They’ve each gained weight & have begun to recognize our Peregrine puppet as their caregiver. HAR Wildlife Center staff members continue to carefully monitor the chicks while donning ghillie suits & the puppet, feeding & cleaning them multiple times per day.
You can see the puppet in the photo at top. Here’s what a ghillie suit looks like:
Sex of the chicks:
The sex of peregrine chicks is determined by their weight at banding — females are much heavier than males — but sometimes their weights are borderline. Among these four, two were clearly males at banding and two were deemed too close to call. “Unknowns” are given female bands because the larger ring will not bind either sex.
Update on the parents, Dori and Louie:
The adult peregrines, Dori and Louie, are generally absent now from Third Avenue. Construction has moved to the roof of Keystone Flats, the building that sparked the controversy and led to their chicks’ removal. Workers will add another floor and a rooftop deck. Doug Cunzolo stopped by Third Avenue on Friday morning May 11, 2018, took the photo above and reported:
This morning I stopped up at the 3rd. ave. nest site & talked with 2 of the workers there. They said the adults come by from time to time but not to the nest site itself. They were not there at around 8-8:30 am while I was there. There are cranes from the next door parking lot up over the roof & near the nest site moving steel & concrete block up onto the roof. So too much activity for them I would think.
When I stopped by late Sunday the area was quiet and there were no peregrines around. Dori and Louie have lots of other places to hang out Downtown. They have not been seen at the Gulf Tower.
Though the developer is paying for the chicks’ upkeep you can show your support by donating at the Humane Animal Rescue’s Donation page. Be sure to select Designation “Injured Wildlife” from the pull-down menu! (The chicks are not injured. That’s just the name that insures the gift goes to the Wildlife Center where they are housed.)
(photo credits: chicks’ photos from Humane Animal Rescue Facebook page; Third Avenue construction photo by Doug Cunzolo)
This morning two peregrine chicks, ages 23 and 24 days old, were banded at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. Lead Bander Dan Brauning, PA Game Commission Wildlife Diversity Chief, was assisted by PGC Biologist Tammy Colt.
This is the third year that Hope and Terzo have nested at the Cathedral of Learning so they knew something was up this morning and were especially vigilant.
When Dan and Tammy came out on the ledge, Terzo zoomed just above them and Hope jumped into the nest and started to shout. She was so loud that she distorted the audio on the falconcam and could be heard 20 floors below! See the video below.
After Dan removed one chick, Hope guarded the second one so closely that he had to nudge her gently aside with a broom. She bit the broom!
Indoors, the chicks were given health checkups (both healthy!) and — based on their weight — were given female bands. They were returned to the nest in less than half an hour.
Hope yelled again as the chicks were returned to the nest. See video below.
Today, 11 May 2018, is banding day for the peregrine falcon chicks at the Cathedral of Learning. The event is closed to the public (the room has a strict occupancy limit!) but you’ll see some of the action on camera.
The first hint will be the sound of “kakking” as Hope and Terzo react when Pennsylvania Game Commission‘s Dan Brauning goes out on the ledge to retrieve the chicks.
The chicks will receive health checks and leg bands and be returned to the nest in less than half an hour.
Hours later, Lori Maggio visited Third Avenue at lunchtime and found Dori and Louie perched on Lawrence Hall across the street from their former nest.
They watched calmly because there were no people on the roof. Eventually the peregrines will be less vigilant, especially if people stay away from the nest-roof area for a while.
At top, Dori watches from across the street. Below, Louie watches from the top parapet of Lawrence Hall.
Their chicks were taken to Humane Animal Rescue where Pittsburgh’s injured peregrines go for rehab and recovery — especially Dori’s chicks who land on the street, hit buildings, break bones and sustain concussions from Downtown’s many hazards. Humane Animal Rescue will make sure the chicks don’t become habituated to humans and will work with the Game Commission to release them at a wild cliff. Human Animal Rescue does an excellent job. (See KDKA video)
The silver lining for the chicks is this: These four won’t face death at fledging time. I have seen too many die gruesome deaths because the Third Avenue nest is too low. Half die within two weeks, sometimes slowly and painfully before they are discovered.
These four chicks will do well.
(photos of Downtown peregrines by Lori Maggio, 8 May 2018)
p.s. A Caution to Commenters: During this emotional time … if you post a comment that could inflame others, I may edit or delete it.