Category Archives: Peregrines

About To Fly

3 chicks in red-tailed hawks’ nest, Schenley Park, 28 May 2023 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

31 May 2023

Spring nesting season is continuing apace. The first batch of baby robins is learning to fly and some are old enough to forage on their own. Raptor fledglings are not far behind.

On Sunday 28 May we watched three red-tailed hawk chicks in a nest under the Panther Hollow Bridge in Schenley Park. This species hatches in the order the eggs are laid, each one two days younger than the last. The chicks clearly show their age difference in Charity Kheshgi’s video. One chick is getting ready to fly, one is still fluffy, and the middle one is halfway between.

Red-tailed hawks’ nest, Schenley Park, 28 May 2023 (video by Charity Kheshgi)

At the Tarentum Bridge on Sunday afternoon, John English and I watched three peregrine chicks lounging on top of the nestbox while an adult “babysat” nearby.

Adult female peregrine watches her ledge-walking chicks at the Tarentum Bridge, 28 May 2023 (photo by John English)

At first we saw only three chicks but after we moved to a better viewing location the fourth was on the top of the box as well, exercising his wings.

Four peregrine chicks at Tarentum Bridge, 28 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)
Four peregrine chicks at Tarentum Bridge, 28 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)
One chick concentrates on exercising his wings (photo by Kate St. John)

And suddenly I saw him fly the length of the pier to the other end and back again to the top of the box! I have no photos of this feat but you get the idea. By today he may have fledged from the bridge.

All these birds are about to fly.

(photos by Charity Kheshgi, John English and Kate St. John)

Newly Found Peregrines Nest Near Brownsville, PA

Female peregrine clutching prey and shouting, West Brownsville Lane Bane Bridge, 26 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

30 May 2023

Last Wednesday, 24 May, Mark Vass drove down the Monongahela River valley looking for birds and checking bridges. In West Brownsville he found a peregrine perched under the US Route 40 Lane Bane Bridge. Mark’s checklist and photo set off a quest to find the nest (https://ebird.org/checklist/S139102470)

Jeff Cieslak made the trip on Friday 26 May and found the nest hole and a pair of peregrines carrying food to it. The female is peachy with heavy dots, the male is whiter. Neither bird is banded. (My male-female assessment is based on the tendency of mid-latitude males to be paler than females. Notice that both have the adult plumage trait of horizontal stripes on their flanks.)

Male peregrine, West Brownsville Lane Bane Bridge, 26 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)
Male peregrine, West Brownsville Lane Bane Bridge, 26 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Alyssa Nees and Fred Kachmarik visited on Memorial Day, 29 May, and counted a family of five — two adults, three chicks. Alyssa’s photos show an adult in the nest hole …

Peregrine inside the nest area on the Lane Bane Bridge, West Brownsville, PA, 29 May 2023 (photo by Alyssa Nees)

… and a chick clearly visible (red circle) with fluffy white top of head, feathered face and brown back. The arrow points to the tail of an adult watching from above.

Adult peregrine (arrow) and fluffy white head, face & brown back of nestling (circle) at Lane Bane Bridge, 29 May 2023 (photo by Alyssa Nees)

Fred’s photos of the chicks include an older chick and a fluffy young one:

Where are these peregrines located?

The Lane Bane Bridge, carries US Route 40 over the Monongahela River from West Brownsville, Washington County, to Brownsville, Fayette County PA. Its construction is very similar to the Graff Bridge at Kittanning, PA, which has its own nesting peregrines.

A truss structure spans the river and ends at a pillar on each side. As far as I can tell from the photos, the nest appears to be close to the pillar. So these birds are nesting in Washington County, PA.

Interestingly, when Google Street View cameras drove by on the West Brownsville side this month, the cameras “saw” a bird perched on the superstructure near the pillar. I’ll bet this dot is a peregrine.

Bird (probably peregrine) perched near on the Lane Bane Bridge over West Brownsville (screenshot from Google Street View)

Thanks and congratulations to Mark Vass, Jeff Cieslak, Alyssa Nees and Fred Kachmarik for finding and documenting this peregrine family.

If you’d like to see the birds yourself, Jeff provides a map.

Location of West Brownsville “scrape” at Lane Bane Bridge (screenshot from Google maps annotated by Jeff Cieslak)

p.s. Could there be another peregrine nest at the next bridge three miles away? Nope. The Mon-Fayette Expressway bridge is solid concrete. Click here to see a screenshot of the Mon-Fay bridge in Google Street View.

(photos by Jeff Cieslak, Mark Vass via eBird, Alyssa Nees, Fred Kachmarik via eBird, Wikimedia Commons and screenshots from Google Street View)

Watch Peregrines This Weekend

Female peregrine feeding 4 young at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

26 May 2023, Pittsburgh

Are you in town for the Memorial Day weekend and wondering how to spend the time? Visit these peregrine sites to watch young birds getting ready to fly.

The Best Views Ever are at the Tarentum Bridge right now (photo above). Click here for a Tarentum Bridge peregrine-watch map.


Other sites include …

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh: This is the only site without eggs or young but there’s a new female, Carla, since 14 May. Carla and Ecco are courting intensively. Will this prompt her to lay eggs? Watch the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh to find out.

Ecco and Carla bow in courtship, 25 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Downtown Pittsburgh: There are 2-4 young here, about 30 days old. Watch for them to appear on the ledge on 3rd Avenue between Wood and Smithfield in Downtown Pittsburgh (click for map).

Female peregrine at Third Ave nest area, 18 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Eckert Street near McKees Rocks Bridge, Ohio River: Watch for the chicks to appear where the parents are standing in this photo by Jeff Cieslak. Click here for the map.

Peregrine pair at the nest, Eckert Street, 24 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Westinghouse Bridge, Turtle Creek: The parents are bringing food to the nest. Click here for a map of the easiest viewing location on Elder Street.

Female peregrine carrying food at Westinghouse Bridge, 13 May 2023 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Are Beaver or Washington Counties more convenient to you? Check out the latest news at all the sites below.

(photos from Lynn Mamros, the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh, Jeff Cieslak, , Dana Nesiti)

Tarentum Peregrines Will Fly Soon

3 of the 4 young peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

24 May 2023

If you want to see young peregrine falcons just before they fly, now is the time to do it. Four youngsters at the Tarentum Bridge are ledge walking and will make their first flight soon.

Last Sunday, 21 May, Lynn Mamros photographed the family.

Peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

The father peregrine brought in food …

Parents bring food to Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

… the mother peregrine plucked it …

Female peregrine preparing a meal for the chicks, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

… and then the feeding began. All four chicks are visible in most of these slides. Can you see them? (Hint: One’s on the perch.)

The youngsters are losing their fluff and will soon be completely brown.

Peregrines at Tarentum Bridge, 21 May 2023 (photo by Lynn Mamros)

And then they will fly. Don’t miss it! Visit the Tarentum Boat Ramp to see them. Click here for a map.

Learn more about the process of first flight at Peregrine Progress: First Flight.

(photos by Lynn Mamros)

Who is Who? Carla or Ecco?

Ecco and Carla at the Cathedral of Learning nest, 18 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

21 May 2023

Just one week ago the new female peregrine, Carla, appeared on camera at the Cathedral of Learning. Since then she and the resident male, Ecco, have been courting every day, sometimes as often as 10 times a day, and Carla has shown an interest in the scrape.

Carla digging the scrape, 19 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Now that these two are a permanent couple how do we tell them apart? Here are some tips for comparing and identifying each bird.

Banded: The easiest clue is that Carla is banded and Ecco is not.

Compare Carla and Ecco: bands and no bands (photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Coloration: Carla’s chest has tiny dark flecks. Ecco’s chest is pure white.

Carla and Ecco: flecks on breast vs clear white breast (photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Carla’s back is nearly uniform charcoal brown while Ecco’s back shows light-dark contrast between his paler gray back and black wingtips and tail.

Carla and Ecco: Carla’s back is uniform charcoal brown, Ecco’s shows contrast (photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Size: Male peregrines are 1/3 smaller than females. Carla is always the bigger bird as shown in photo at top. Compared to Ecco, Carla’s body is longer and she is bulkier. If only one bird is on camera, compare it to the size of the nestbox or camera view.

And now we’re ready for a quiz. See if you can identify who is who.

The more we watch Carla and Ecco the better we’ll get at identifying them.

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

Seen This Week + Carla Falcon In The News

Mitrewort, Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 16 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

20 May 2023

This was a good week for birds and flowers. But first, no day would be complete without news of the Pitt peregrines.


Carla the Falcon was featured in the Pitt News at “A new peregrine falcon moved into the Cathedral of Learning.” Watch for her on the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning.

Carla the Falcon at Pitt, 18 May 2023, 11:24a (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Seen This Week: While out birding on Tuesday I noticed blooming flowers and unusual leaves at Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve. Mitrewort (Mitella diphylla), at top, is one of my favorites because of its delicate, intricate flowers.

The Greek genus name of Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) roughly means “bird’s milk.”

Star-of-Bethlehem, Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 16 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

This red leaf gall caught my attention, but the bulk of it is under of the leaf and colored green (second photo). Does anyone know the name of this gall?

Upper side of leaf gall, Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 16 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)
Underside of leaf gall, Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 16 May 2023 (photo by Kate St. John)

Large-flowered valerian (Valeriana pauciflora) is in bud and in bloom at Raccoon Wildlfower Reserve.

Largeflower valerian, in bud and blooming, Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve, 16 May 2023 (photos by Kate St. John)

Meanwhile jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is blooming in Schenley Park. I could not resist raising his lid.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, normal pose and lid raised, Schenley Park, 19 May 2023 (photos by Kate St. John)

(flower photos by Kate St. John; peregrine photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Courtship and Exploration

18 May 2023

The new female peregrine, Carla(*), has been at the Cathedral of Learning for only a few days but is quickly becoming acquainted with the territory and her new mate Ecco. Yesterday they made courtship flights around the building and bowed at the nest several times.

Though it seems late in the season to start nesting, the snapshot camera shows Carla exploring the nest and the pair’s interest in each other. (The slides repeat automatically.)

#1. Ecco calls to Carla, “Come down from the nestbox roof.” When she doesn’t, he leaves and she asks him to come bow.

Carla poses while sunbathing in front of the snapshot camera, 17 May at noon.

Ecco and Carla bow at the nest, 17 May at 5:10pm.

This morning the pair already visited the nest before dawn. Watch them on the live stream at the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning.

(*) For more information on Carla’s arrival, see “Her Name is Carla.

(photos from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Her Name is Carla

Carla, the new female peregrine at Pitt, 15 May 2023, 12:15p (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

16 March 2023

Today’s happy news is that the new female peregrine, Black/Blue S/07, who visited the Cathedral of Learning nestbox on Sunday was back again yesterday for 30 minutes. It was another hot sunny day so of course she decided to sunbathe …

The new female peregrine at Pitt sunbathing on 15 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

… but before stretching out in the sun she spent some time looking around. Here are two minutes from her half hour visit.

New peregrine at Pitt, Carla, visits the nest on 15 May 2023 (video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Watch for her and the resident male, Ecco, on the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning.


Also yesterday, peregrine fans researched her early days and banding history. Kathy Majich sent me a news article that said S/07 was named “Carla” on Banding Day.

For the eighth consecutive year, falcon father Jamie and mother Moxie squawked loudly and angrily Monday as their baby chicks that hatched atop Indiana Michigan Power Center (IMPC) were briefly removed from their nest to receive identification bands.

The three male chicks were named Bolt, Unity and Artemis, and the one female was named Carla.

… We used the opportunity to invite I&M employees to select the names – and they submitted more than 650 names for consideration.

… [The name] Carla is in recognition of one of I&M’s respected leaders, who is retiring this summer after more than 30 years with the company.

Indiana Michigan Power Press Release: 4 Falcon Chicks Named and Banded at Indiana Michigan Power Center, 19 May 2020

Who is Carla’s namesake? I contacted Tracy Warner in Media Relations at Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of AEP, and he confirmed that Carla the Falcon was named for Carla E. Simpson who retired in the summer of 2020.

Carla Simpson started as a clerk/cashier in 1988 and by the time she retired was a director of the company and listed in the Annual Report.  Interviewed in 2017 for the AEP Retirees newsletter, Carla Simpson said something that really resonates with me.

Q (asked of Carla E. Simpson): What is the biggest challenge you have faced and overcome in your career at AEP?

A: The biggest challenge I have faced as a woman is not being heard at times. Sometimes I can make a suggestion or statement and it is overlooked, but another person may make the same suggestion and be heard. This is a challenge that I have not yet overcome but I am working on it. It sometimes requires me to restate what I said or ask for clarity as to how the other person’s suggestion or statement is different from mine.

AEP’s Outstanding Women: Carla Simpson, March 2017

Check out the full interview here.


We’ve also learned that the Cathedral of Learning was not Carla the Falcon’s first stop in Pittsburgh. In early April Jeff Cieslak tracked down a new pair of peregrines at the West End Bridge, a place where none have ever nested before.

West End Bridge peregrine viewing (Google map marked up by Jeff Cieslak)

The female was banded and by 4 May Jeff finally got a shot of her bands pictured below. Jeff wrote, “This kinda looks like S/01 Black/Blue? Could be green. …. [The bird] flew off and dropped a feather into the river, P5 left, I think, and that pretty much confirms that it’s the female.”

Carla at the West End Bridge, Pittsburgh, PA, 4 May 2023 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

I can understand why Carla left the West End Bridge for the Cathedral of Learning. In 2020 she hatched on a 27-story building, the Indiana Michigan Power Center.

Indiana Michigan Power Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

She is now preparing for a long stay on a 40-story building, the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, as seen from Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park below.

Cathedral of Learning, Univ of Pittsburgh, as seen from Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

You can watch Carla and her future mate, Ecco, on the National Aviary Falconcam at the Cathedral of Learning. It is probably too late in the season to start nesting so they won’t be on camera frequently. However Carla and Ecco are getting to know each other and that may involve bowing at the nest. Wait and see.

(see photo and video credits in the captions)

New Female Peregrine at Cathedral of Learning!

New banded female peregrine at Cathedral of Learning, 14 May 2023, 14:04 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

15 May 2023

In Sunday’s update I explained that Morela was very ill when she disappeared last Friday and said: “If Morela is gone a new female will come to the Cathedral of Learning to be Ecco’s mate.” Well, that didn’t take long! A new female peregrine showed up at 2:00pm and displayed her bands. I already know where she came from.

Yesterday was so warm and sunny that Ecco sunbathed for 90 minutes at midday. Then at 2:00pm a new female peregrine showed up and sunbathed for half an hour. (See slideshow at end.)

New banded female peregrine at Cathedral of Learning, 14 May 2023, 14:04 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

She periodically looked at the sky as she stretched her legs and wings. Amazingly she aimed her color band at the camera!

Band on new female peregrine at Pitt = Black/Blue S/07

Female peregrine Black/Blue S/07 was banded on 5/18/2020 at nest on a building at One Summit Square, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

From her photos she looks paler than Morela to me and her face is different.

New banded female sunning at Pitt peregrine nest, 14 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
New female at Pitt peregrine nest, 14 May 2023, 2:27pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Will she stick around? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile here’s a slideshow of her from a different angle.

(all photos from the National Aviary falconcam and snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Update on Morela at the Pitt Peregrine Nest

Morela looks ill at Pitt peregrine nest, 8 May 2023 5:34pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

14 May 2023

Two weeks ago I wrote that there would be no peregrine eggs this year at the Cathedral of Learning because Morela was unable to lay any. She crouched and strained but appeared to be egg bound.

Morela stands over the scrape as if to lay an egg but it never comes, 1 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Since then Morela has had days when she looks very ill, then seems to recover a little, then looks ill again. Though she stopped standing over the scrape as shown above, she has not returned to her formerly energetic self. Her bleary eyes indicate she feels unwell.

Morela’s bleary eyes indicate she doesn’t feel well, 4 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Ecco knows that she is ill.

Ecco knows Morela is ill, 5 May 2023 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

He does what he can by bringing her food which he prepares more carefully than usual, as if he’s making it easy to eat. Unfortunately it is not enough.

Ecco carefully prepares food for Morela, 12 May 2023 6:50am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

On the morning of 7 May Morela felt bad enough that she left the nest for 36 hours. That day I found her facing the wall in the 38th floor southeast cache area.

She returned to the nest at 5:34pm on 8 May and seemed slightly better but in the next few days her health declined. In this snapshot she is leaning to the side, something she never did when healthy.

Morela lists to her left, 10 May 2032, 8:32pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

During a difficult night on May 11-12 Morela leaned a lot and may have lost her balance a couple of times. On Friday 12 May at 5:51am she left the nest and has not been seen since.

Her long absence and ill health indicate we probably won’t see her again.

Life goes on in the peregrine world. If Morela is gone a new female will come to the Cathedral of Learning to be Ecco’s mate. This year it’s too late to raise a family but if all goes well there will be peregrine chicks next year.

Hoping for happier times ahead.

UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long! A new, banded FEMALE peregrine came to the nestbox on 14 May at 2:27 PM.

Here she is at the nest this afternoon. I thought this was Morela but when I looked at the image I can see that SHE’S BANDED! (Morela was unbanded.)

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