Category Archives: Peregrines

Peregrines Nesting in Australia

Peregrine nestcam at Charles Sturt University, Orange, NSW, Australia, Oct 2018

Not only is New South Wales, Australia 15 time zones ahead of Pittsburgh, but the seasons are six months ahead as well. Right now it’s spring in the town of Orange, Australia and peregrine falcons are nesting.

Location of Orange, NSW, Australia (screenshot from Google maps)

Back in 2008, Charles Sturt University set up a falconcam on the nesbox at their Orange campus. This year there are two cameras and great views of the active chicks. (Click here or on the map caption for a closer look at where this is.)

The mother peregrine, Diamond, laid three eggs 21-24 August 2018.  The two chicks hatched on 25-26 September and have kept Diamond and her mate Xavier very busy ever since. 

News of the falconcam was late to reach me so the chicks are now five weeks old and growing their brown feathers.   

Tune in soon to see the nestlings before they fly.   Click here for the CSU Falconcams. Read the latest news at the Falconcam Project page.

(screenshot of CSU Camera One from the CSU Falconcam Project. screenshot of Google map of Australia.  Click on the captions to see the originals)

Upcoming Events

Two upcoming events! They’re listed in reverse date order because peregrines always come first.  😉

Saturday, November 10, 2018 — 2:00pm

Peregrine Falcons: Can people make a difference for endangered species?

Join the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy at their Annual Meeting on Saturday November 10 where I’ll present an engaging account of the lives and history of peregrine falcons.  Peregrines are a great environmental success story, from their extinction in eastern North America in the 1960s to their reintroduction and removal from the Endangered Species list in the US and many eastern states.

Where: Mt. Lebanon Public Library, 16 Castle Shannon Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15228.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Sunday, October 28, 2018 — 8:30am – 10:30am

Bird and Nature Walk at Duck Hollow and Lower Frick Park

When the lakes freeze up north, ducks and geese come south.

Meet at Duck Hollow parking lot at the end of Old Browns Hill Road. We’ll see migrating waterfowl on the river and walk part of nearby lower Nine Mile Run Trail at the south end of Frick Park.

Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring binoculars and field guides — and a birding scope — if you have them.  As these dates approach, check the Events page in case of cancellation.

Is it time for ducks? I hope so!

(event postcard image from Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy; common merganser photo by Chuck Tague)

High Turnover in Virginia

Female peregrine, Hope, in flight at the Cathedral of Learning, 27 May 2016 (photo by Peter Bell)

The Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia closely monitors Virginia’s peregrine falcons — so closely, in fact, that they identify individual nesting birds.  CCB may not know the origin of every adult peregrine (some arrive unbanded) but their goal is to know who’s who at every site.

Now that the 2018 nesting season is over, CCB analyzed their identification data and discovered an anomaly in Virginia.  Not only did they see the highest turnover rate of any year to date, but three times as many female peregrines were replaced as males.

As Dr. Bryan Watts reports,

Only 10.5% of males were lost compared to 35.0% of females. … [This] ongoing trend is opposite of the pattern of survival documented within the peregrine population breeding within the Midwest.

Female Peregrines Under Pressure, Center for Conservation Biology newsletter, 2 Oct 2018

The female peregrine pictured above, Hope (black/green 69/Z), hatched at Hopewell, Virginia in 2008. She now nests at the Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning, far away from her Virginia birthplace. She chose a territory where female survival is higher than where she was born.

Read more about Virginia’s peregrine turnover rate in this CCB article, Female Peregrines Under Pressure.

(photo of Hope at the Cathedral of Learning, 27 May 2016, by Peter Bell)

October Pair Bonds

  • Peregrines bow to strengthen their pair bond at the Gulf Tower, Downtown Pittsburgh, 1 Oct 2018, 838am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

While many raptors are migrating, Pittsburgh’s stay-at-home peregrines are patrolling their territories and strengthening their pair bonds as they watch the others fly by.  Yesterday was a particularly good day for this activity.

In the slideshow above the Downtown pair courts for almost ten minutes in the morning fog, then Dori hangs out at the Gulf Tower for 5.5 hours.  Later, in a surprise move, the banded male (looks like Louie) visits the nest and digs the scrape after dark.  

Over at Pitt the peregrine pair, Hope and Terzo, decided to court at the Cathedral of Learning nest.  Their visit was shorter — from 5:08p to 5:46p.

  • Waiting for her mate, 1 Oct 2018, 508pm

Keep an eye on the National Aviary’s Cathedral of Learning and Gulf Tower cameras for an autumn glimpse of Pittsburgh’s peregrines.

p.s. We hope Dori and Louie will nest at the Gulf Tower next spring but it’s too early to tell if they will.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Gulf Tower and the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, PA)

Camera Goes Off Aug 15

Hope visits the nestbox on 4 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Hope on 4 Aug 2018, National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

August 12, 2018:  The Live Stream will stop but camera Snapshots will still be on.

Summer is a lazy time for peregrine falcons.  The adults are molting and the young have left home.

At the Univ. of Pittsburgh I usually find a peregrine snoozing in a nook on the north face of the Cathedral of Learning.  As expected the birds shun the nestbox except for a short spurt in late July.  So we won’t miss much when …

Ozolio’s six month contract for streaming the National Aviary‘s falconcams ends this week on August 15.

The Cathedral of Learning and Gulf Tower live streams will go dark but you can still see snapshots at the links below:

As you can see, there’s not much to watch …

Cathderal of Learning nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Cathedral of Learning nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Gulf Tower nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)
Gulf Tower nestbox, 11 Aug 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at the Gulf Tower)

Streaming will resume in February 2019 in advance of the nesting season.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Cathedral of Learning and Gulf Tower, Pittsburgh, PA)

Elizabeth Peregrine Released To Foster Family

Biologist Patti Barber holding freshly banded Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling, about to be released 25 June 2018 (photo courtesy David Barber)
Biologist Patti Barber holding freshly banded Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling, about to be released 25 June 2018 (photo courtesy David Barber)

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!

Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling just after release at cliffside nest site 06-25-18 (photo courtesy David Barber)
Elizabeth Bridge peregrine fledgling just after release at cliffside nest site 06-25-18 (photo courtesy David Barber)

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)

Growing Greener

Hope perches near a plant growing in the nestbox at the Cathedral of Learning, 24 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Hope perches near a plant growing in the nestbox at the Cathedral of Learning, 24 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

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.

Click here for a current view of the plant.

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.

(photo from the National Aviary snapshot cam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Air Traffic Control

Dorothy stoops on an immature bald eagle, 6 June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)
Dorothy stoops on an immature bald eagle, 6 June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)

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.

Here’s what happened during a similar incident in 2012: Peregrine Versus Bald Eagle … Guess Who Won.

 

(photo by Peter Bell)

Peregrine Update, June 22

Peregrine chick at Humane Animal Rescue, 15 May 2018 (screenshot from Humane Animal Rescue Facebook page)
Peregrine chick at Humane Animal Rescue, 15 May 2018 (screenshot from Humane Animal Rescue Facebook page)

22 June 2018:

Yesterday was a big day for peregrine falcon news.  There are updates from four sites.

Downtown Pittsburgh’s peregrines: formerly at Third Avenue

One of two young peregrines from Downtown Pittsburgh released to foster parents in northern PA (photo courtesy Dan Brauning, PGC)
One of two young peregrines from Downtown Pittsburgh nest, released to foster parents in northern PA (photo courtesy Dan Brauning, PGC)

On Wednesday the PA Game Commission Southwest Region issued a press release on the status of the Downtown peregrine chicks that were removed from their nest on 8 May (pictured at top on 15 May).  I have not seen the press release so my source for this news is John Hayes’ 21 June 2018 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  Displaced Pittsburgh peregrine falcon chicks resettle in new home in northcentral PA.

Though two of the chicks passed away I am happy to learn that the remaining two were fostered at a wild peregrine nest on a cliff in north central Pennsylvania.  One of them is shown in a tree above just after release. He was wetted down to insure he would not fly abruptly.

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.

Please read John Hayes’ article for all the details.

UPDATE, 11am:  I received the PGC Press Release (click here to read the entire release).  Here’s my favorite quote from it:

“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

Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)
Adult peregrine perched on the Elizabeth Bridge, 3 June 2018 (photo by John English)

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.

Yesterday we heard good news of the surviving juvenile, embedded below from Wildlife Works, Inc Facebook page.  (Click here for a full-length photo.)

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

Young peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 18 June 2018 (photo by Steve Gosser)
Young peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 18 June 2018 (photo by Steve Gosser)

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.

Visit the Tarentum Bridge soon to see the young peregrines.

 

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

Terzo and Hope court on Midsummer Day, 21 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Terzo and Hope court on Midsummer Day, 21 June 2018 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

On Midsummer morning, Hope and Terzo made a quick visit to the nestbox and bowed to each other. Though they will not nest again this year bowing strengthens their pair bond.

 

(photo credits:
screenshot of Downtown peregrine chicks 15 May 2018 from Humane Animal Rescue,
peregrine at Elizabeth Bridge by John English,
injured juvenile peregrine from Elizabeth Bridge embedded from Wildlife Works Facebook page,
juvenile peregrines at Tarentum Bridge by Steve Gosser
Terzo and Hope at Cathedral of Learning from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh
)

Hacking Young Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine hack box at New River Gorge National River (photo in public domain from NPS, annotated by Kate St. John)
Peregrine hack box at New River Gorge National River (photo in public domain from NPS, annotated by Kate St. John)

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.

The Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Virginia has four decades of experience in hacking peregrines.  Please read their excellent description of hacking, complete with photos from their program.

This brief description, partly drawn from ccbbirds.org, includes National Park Service photos from the Shenandoahs and New River Gorge.

A hack box, above, is prepared and placed on the cliff.  It has:

  • Grill-work on the cliff side so the chicks can see the sky and valley,
  • A door that opens on a safe ledge for wing exercising,
  • A chute for delivering food to the chicks.

Young peregrines are placed in the box after banding and before they are old enough to fly.  The box is kept closed at first for the chicks’ protection from great horned owls and other predators.

Peregrine chick being placed in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology)
Peregrine chick being placed in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology website)
Peregrine chicks in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology website)
Peregrine chicks in hack box (photo by NPS via Center for Conservation Biology website)

 

The chicks are fed using the chute. (They don’t see humans feeding them.)

Using the chute to feed the chicks (photo from National Park Service, New River Gorge)
Using the chute to feed the chicks (photo from National Park Service, New River Gorge)

When they are old enough to ledge walk, the door is left open so they can walk out and exercise their wings.  They are still fed using the chute.

Eventually the chicks fly and learn to hunt. Food is delivered to the hack box until they are self sufficient.

Young peregrines flying before they disperse from the hack site (photo from National Park Service)
Young peregrines flying before they disperse from the hack site (photo from National Park Service)

When the fledglings are self sufficient they fly away (disperse).

We know they disperse far.  Three hacked birds from the Center for Conservation Biology program have come to Pittsburgh to nest.

 

(photos by the National Park Service from the New River Gorge National River hacking program and via the Center for Conservation Biology website)