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.
Then she stood up for a moment and we can see four eggs.
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.
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.
Someone perched on a Lawrence Hall window ledge. I wish that bird was outside my window!
On March 1, Louie waited on the “rescue porch” railing while Dori was inside the nest area.
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.
On March 8 Louie was perched at the nest ledge and flew away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. )
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:
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.
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.)
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.