This spring the unresolved rivalry between two male peregrines — Terzo and Ecco — at the Cathedral of Learning made for a disappointing nesting season but generated a lot of speculation. Now that we know more about the Downtown peregrines we can lay one bit of speculation to rest.
Back on 15 March when Terzo and Ecco’s rivalry was spinning like a revolving door, I was surprised to see the Downtown female peregrine Dori appear on camera at Pitt. At the time I couldn’t help wondering, “Is the unbanded male Dori’s new mate who is shopping in Oakland because he doesn’t like the Downtown site?” … This led to speculation that Ecco was two-timing between the two nests. No, he is not.
Ecco has not been two-timing between Pitt and Downtown because (1) he’s not Dori’s mate and (2) he would have been way too busy Downtown to visit Morela at certain critical times.
Meanwhile at Pitt, Ecco spent a busy day courting Morela multiple times on 25 June.
Even if we didn’t know Dori’s real mate, this timing indicates Ecco has nothing to do with the Downtown nest.
So, Ecco isn’t two-timing. Frankly he’s having trouble being a successful one-timer.
My apologies for sending us all down this speculative rabbit hole. I should have brushed off Dori’s visit as curiosity on her part. I’ve seen other females visit the Pitt nest during turbulent times. Magnum visited twice in 2016 during Hope’s first turbulent year.
As much as I know peregrines I never learn that they’re surprising.
(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh and Lori Maggio)
Because of the COVID-19 shutdown there have been few eyes on the street in Downtown Pittsburgh so I was grateful when Point Park University police called me on Friday afternoon, 26 June 2020, with news of the Third Avenue peregrine nest. Unfortunately they had found a dead peregrine falcon fledgling. The good news is there are youngsters Downtown and they’re learning to fly. Maybe there are more. On Sunday morning 28 June Lori Maggio went Downtown to find out.
At 9:30am Lori texted me to report a youngster whining on the nest ledge and an adult watching from a gargoyle on Lawrence Hall.
The youngster was watching this adult who has a silver right leg band (color band is hidden from this view). This is not Dori. Her right leg band is pink. In addition, this bird doesn’t look like Dori and its plumage looks male to me — sharply contrasting head, tail, wings and pale back. If I’m right, the Downtown male is banded.
As Lori watched, the youngster exercised her wings and made some practice flights along the ledge.
At 2pm I joined Lori at Third Avenue and we walked around looking for peregrines. There was still one juvenile at the nest ledge plus an adult on top of Oxford Center.
Interestingly, the adult intently watched a spot we could not see in the vicinity of Forbes and Cherry Way, staring at it for at least half an hour before flying away. This sort of intense watching is usually a sign that the parent peregrine is watching a juvenile. If so, there were at least three young at the Downtown nest this year.
This morning Lori is at Third Avenue again, observing one adult plus the youngster on the nest ledge. I hope she can get a photo of the color band!
Though the peregrine nesting season has failed at the Cathedral of Learning, Morela continues to visit the nest and bow with her suitors, Terzo and Ecco. In a normal year this activity would have ended with egg laying in March. This year, over a period of (now) four months, we’ve been able to observe individual behavior in the two males and Morela’s relationship with each one.
Indeed their relationships are different. I’ve noticed that during the longer courtship sessions Morela bows closer with Ecco than she does with Terzo.
During this five minute bowing session on 16 June, Ecco and Morela turn their heads side to side and nearly touch beaks. This is a more intimate form of bowing than merely bobbing up and down.
On 18 June, Terzo initiates a three minute courtship session that lacks such a close approach.
Since we are humans, not peregrines, we don’t know if the behavioral difference is due to the males’ personalities or Morela’s chemistry with each one. But we can see that Morela comes closer to Ecco.
p.s. This month Ecco has been bowing with Morela before dawn! Click here for a bowing session at 5:30am on Sunday 21 June.
Recent peregrine news out of San Francisco is sadly familiar. SFist reports that people watched the falconcam in horror as a male peregrine, nicknamed Canyon, killed and ate his first hatchling at the PG&E nest.
When I reviewed yesterday’s time lapse video I saw Morela entice an unseen male to court with her at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. She bowed with him in the 7 and 8 o’clock hours but she wasn’t with Terzo. Ecco is back!
In this Day-in-a-Minute video you can see both courtship sessions with Ecco, then Terzo at the nest alone at 10:30am. (Nothing else happened for the rest of the day.)
Morela and Ecco bowed at 7:08a in the video below.
In their second bowing session at 8:17a they nearly touched beaks, then Ecco checked the sky.
Terzo arrived two hours later and felt comfortable standing there, unthreatened, for 50 minutes.
These two male peregrines still haven’t figured out who “owns” the Cathedral of Learning but at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s too late in the season to raise a family.
Apparently Ecco is gone. Terzo is so confident of this that he closes his eyes and sleeps in full view of the sky. We don’t know if Ecco is gone forever but Terzo isn’t worried.
This week Terzo sometimes shelters the eggs even though they aren’t viable. He seems to know this and never incubates.
Every day is similar. Morela and Terzo bow at the nest around 9am. Terzo later sunbathes or shades the eggs if the weather is hot. Morela may sunbath or perch in front. Many hours pass with neither bird at the Cathedral of Learning nest. The peregrines come to enjoy the sun.
Watch Terzo and Morela’s activities in four Day-in-a-Minute videos, June 8 through 11. Each video lasts 60 seconds; it will take four minutes to watch them all.
Yesterday Michael Potoski remarked that he hadn’t been watching the falconcam often “but when I do look it seems the eggs keep moving to different positions with no sign of Morela, Terzo or Ecco.” A mystery! So I looked into it.
Sunday 31 May 2020 was a very active day at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest even though the eggs are no longer incubated. In this Day-in-a-Minute video you can see Morela come to the nest at 9:20am and move the eggs into a pile. Then at 10:05am Terzo shows up for one of many visits.
It was chilly yesterday with a northwest wind but the nest side of the building was out of the wind and in full sun. At 12:15pm Terzo arrived to sunbathe for about an hour.
Then at 1:50pm Morela came too and bowed with Terzo for more than 4 minutes. This is the longest time they’ve spent together at the nest since Ecco, his rival, made Terzo so cautious. This video includes the full 4.5 minutes even though there’s not much action.
Terzo was on camera a lot yesterday. Ecco was absent, at least for the day.
When a young peregrine lands on the ground on his first flight he doesn’t yet have the upper body strength to flap and get airborne. He has to be rescued and put on a high perch to start over.
In Downtown Pittsburgh the Third Avenue nest site is so low that fledglings land on the ground every year. Thankfully, passersby call the PA Game Commission at 724-238-9523 to rescue the downed birds.
Downtown’s fledglings are often found on the sidewalk but sometimes a bird gets creative. Last year one waited at the bus stop. Seven years ago a fledgling landed six feet off the ground on a pickup truck roof rack. Then things got interesting.