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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
Dori remains after the bowing session, 1 Oct 2018, 846a
sleeping at 11:26a
watching at 12:32p
more watching, 1:10p
napping, 213p. Dori moves off camera soon after this
A banded male peregrine, probably Louie, visits the Gulf Tower nest after dark, 1 Oct 2018, 734pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf tower)
Digging the scrape in the dark, Gulf Tower, 1 Oct 2018, 739pm
At the Gulf tower, the male peregrine looks toward Oakland in the dark, 1 Oct 2018, 742pm
... and he faces the camera ... 1 Oct 2018, 743pm
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
Hope and Terzo bow at the Cathedral of Learning, 1 Oct 2018, 514pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Waiting for a replay
Hope preening on the perch at Pitt, 1 Oct 2018, 524pm