Category Archives: Peregrines

Murmurations in Lorain

Murmuration of starlings in Lorain, Ohio, 30 Dec 2018 (video by Chad+Chris Saladin)

European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are famous for their ability to fly in tight formation. When under attack by a peregrine falcon, they evade him in amazing ways.

Starlings under pressure fly closer together and shape-shift the flock like a giant blob in the sky. This makes it hard for the peregrine to choose a single bird as prey and gives their flocks a special name, a murmuration.

This winter Chad+Chris Saladin have been filming murmurations in Lorain, Ohio. Above on 30 December 2018, below on Christmas Day.

European starling murmuration in Lorain, Ohio on Christmas Day 2018 (video by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Whenever there’s a peregrine, the starlings murmur.

Bonus! Here’s a Facebook album by Chad+Chris with closeups of a peregrine hunting starlings. (click on the “See More” link embedded in the Facebook post)

(videos and photos by Chad+Chris Saladin; click on the captions to visit their Facebook page)

Pitt Peregrine Highlights, 2018

Peregrine nesting season is only two months away but it feels like an eternity right now. To get in the mood, here are some highlights from the Pitt peregrines in 2018.

(photos from the National Aviary falconcams at Univ. of Pittsburgh, Peter Bell, Anne Marie Bosnyak and John English)

A Rare Sighting

Hope at the Pitt peregrine nest, 17 Dec 2018

Pittsburgh’s peregrines rarely visit their nests in December and when they do it’s for a very short time.

Here are three snapshots of a quick visit Hope made to the Pitt peregrine nest on Monday 17 December 2018. She was there only two minutes.

Checking out the scrape, 17 Dec 2018
… and she’s gone, 17 Dec 2018

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

Racing Pigeons And Raptors

Pigeons (Columba livia) and the raptors who hunt them have evolved together for millions of years. The raptors’ successful hunts leave only the fastest, most maneuverable pigeons. Speedy, elusive pigeons mean only the most skillful raptors can survive.  Most of us never get to see this interaction so this dramatic video from Romania is a real treat.

In 9 minutes Porumbeiro shows how his racing pigeons work to elude two raptors: first a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), then a northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). 

The pigeons stay in a tight flock because raptors can’t pick out a victim in a moving ball of birds. The raptors try to separate one bird from the group by slicing through the flock. If it works, the raptor pursues the lone bird.

Who will win?

(video by pomumbeiro on YouTube)

Who’s Faster In Level Flight?

Peregrine falcon “Buckeye” (Chad+Chris Saladin) and Red-breasted merganser (Steve Gosser)

Peregrine falcons are nicknamed “duck hawks” because ducks are one of their favorite foods.  For comparison, here’s a peregrine falcon and a red-breasted merganser.  Obviously the peregrine is more powerful.

Now imagine the peregrine is chasing the red-breasted merganser over Lake Erie.  If these two birds are traveling as fast as they can go in level flight, who would win?

In level flight (not in a dive) the red-breasted merganser is faster! 

Learn how fast these birds can go in this vintage blog post: Talk About Speed

(photo credits: peregrine falcon by Chad+Chris Saladin, red-breasted merganser by Steve Gosser)

World’s Fastest Animal on NOVA, Nov 21

World’s Fastest Animal premieres on NOVA, 21 Nov 2018 on PBS (screenshot from NOVA)

Peregrine Fans, our favorite bird is coming to PBS NOVA on Wednesday evening November 21.

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth, reaching speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when diving to capture prey.  PBS NOVA will show us how peregrines are designed to reach these speeds and will follow a falconer that believes his bird can go even faster. We’ll also see the family life of peregrines at a nest in Chicago.

Click here or on the caption above to watch the preview.

Don’t miss the World’s Fastest Animal, premiering on Wednesday November 21 at 9pm ET on PBS.  Check your local listings for re-broadcast times in case you’re busy Wednesday night. In Pittsburgh, watch it on WQED.

(screenshot from the trailer of World’s Fastest Animal on PBS NOVA)

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)