Category Archives: Peregrines

Watch For Hatching Late Next Week

Ecco incubating four eggs at the Cathedral of Learning, 13 April 2021 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

15 April 2021

Incubation began three and a half weeks ago at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. During the day Morela and Ecco take turns every one to six hours.

Ecco arrives to incubate before nightfall (photo from the National Aviary snapshot camera at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Because peregrines delay incubation until the clutch is almost complete, nearly all the eggs will hatch on the same day. We humans predict Hatch Day will be between 20 to 26 April. My calculation is on the late end of that spectrum (here).

The peregrines know when Hatch Day is coming because they can hear the chicks inside the eggs. As hatching approaches, Ecco will spend less time on the eggs and Morela will take over.

Our first visual indication will be a pip, shown here in 2013. The chick will emerge in about 72 hours.

How can you tell if an egg has hatched while Morela is completely covering the eggs? Look for a discarded half eggshell away from the scrape, shown here in 2013.

Watch for Hatch Day late next week on the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh.

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

In Snow and Sun and Dark of Night

Morela sleeps while incubating, 4 April 2021, 5:48am

5 April 2021

At the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest Morela and Ecco have been incubating four eggs all night, all day, and in all kinds of weather since 23-24 March. Incubation is boring except for the weather events.

Recurring heavy snow showers moved through in Pittsburgh on April Fools’ Day (1 April). Morela kept dry under the nestbox roof until the wind blew the snow at her.

Snow squall in Pittsburgh while Morela incubates, 1 April 2021, 9:42am

Here’s her reaction to an intense snow shower. Was she scowling?

Yesterday, 4 April, it was so hot that Morela was able to expose the eggs for five minutes while she panted and sunbathed.

Morela sunbathes, 4 April 2021, 2:08pm

Morela incubates all night. Ecco helps out by arriving every morning before dawn. On 31 March he had a message for her. Was he telling her where he stored her breakfast? Was he saying “No need to hurry back” ? Who knows.

Ecco arrives to relieve Morela, 31 March 2021, 6:44am
What is Ecco telling Morela? … “I left your breakfast in the cache area”

Every day is the same. There’s always a bird on the nest. The pair switches off several times a day.

While you wait for hatch day on the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh, check out this FAQ on When Will The Eggs Hatch?

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

Peregrine Update, Southwest PA, 25 March

Morela and Ecco are up there, Cathedral of Learning 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

25 March 2021:

Peregrine falcons in southwestern Pennsylvania are very active in the month of March so this is the perfect time for a regional update before the birds “disappear” during incubation.

This year we are watching — or not watching — 11 sites.

  1. Pittsburgh: Cathedral of Learning, Allegheny County
  2. Pittsburgh: Downtown, Allegheny County
  3. Monongahela Watershed: Westinghouse Bridge, Allegheny County
  4. Monongahela River: Speers Railroad Bridge, Washington County
  5. Ohio River: McKees Rocks Bridge, Allegheny County, NO NEWS
  6. Ohio River: Neville Island Bridge, NO PEREGRINES DUE TO CONSTRUCTION
  7. Ohio River: Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge, Beaver County
  8. Ohio River: Monaca Railroad Bridge, Beaver County
  9. Allegheny River: 62nd Street to Aspinwall Railroad Bridge, NO PEREGRINES NOW
  10. Allegheny River: Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny & Westmoreland Counties
  11. Allegheny River: Rt 422 Graff Bridge Kittanning, Armstrong County

Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh:

Morela with 4 eggs, 24 March 2021 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Unit of Pittsburgh)

Morela laid her fourth egg yesterday at 3:38pm (real time, 3:42pm camera time). As you can see from the 24 March timelapse video, she and Ecco rarely step away from the eggs. Morela stood up at 3:38pm to lay the fourth egg then settled down again as soon as it dried.

Hatch day is expected sometime between April 20-25. We don’t have any history with Morela but I do have history with Dorothy so my guess is April 24-25. Click here for details on my calculation.

Watch Morela and Ecco “live” on the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh.

Downtown Pittsburgh:

Peregrine in the Third Avenue nook, 20 March 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Best viewing of the Third Avenue nest site is from Grandview Avenue on Mt Washington next to the Monongahela Incline. On 20 March Jeff photographed a peregrine perched inside the nook. At that point it appeared they were choosing this location, not Gulf Tower.

Yesterday afternoon, 24 March, I confirmed nesting. When I set up my scope I immediately saw a peregrine in the back left corner standing in the about-to-lay-an-egg posture. As I waited and watched she laid at egg at 3:23pm, paused, raised her foot, then carefully stepped around it and stood waiting for it to dry. Dori laid her egg just 15 minutes before Morela laid hers.

Jeff Cieslaks’ photo insets from Tuesday at 5:43p show an incubating peregrine where the egg was laid … so maybe I saw Dori laying her last egg.

Third Avenue, incubating peregrine, 23 March 2021, 5:43pm (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Monongahela Watershed: Westinghouse Bridge

Peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge, 21 March 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Dana Nesiti photographed the Westinghouse Bridge peregrines mating on 21 March 2021. They are certainly planning to nest!

  • Male peregrine flies toward female, Westinghouse Bridge, 21 March 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Monongahela River, Speers Railroad Bridge:

Peregrine pair at Speers Railroad Bridge, 21 February 2021 (photo by Joe Ciferno)

The Speers Railroad Bridge peregrines have been identified thanks to photos by Joe Ciferno and Dana Nesiti. Both birds are banded:

  • Female – 07/BS Black/Green, banded on 5/18/2017 on the Commodore Barry bridge over the Delaware river in Chester, Delaware County, PA.
  • Male – 68/AC Black/Green, banded on 5/23/2012 at the Cathedral of Learning University of Pittsburgh Allegheny County, PA.

Ohio River, McKees Rocks Bridge: No news. Observers needed!

Ohio River, Neville Island I-79 Bridge: No peregrines due to construction. The underside of the bridge is completely covered. No nest access.

Ohio River, Ambridge Bridge: Peregrines are present throughout the year. Karen Lang has recently seen a single bird, apparently the male, perched on the bridge — Sunday 22 March at 4pm and Wednesday 24 March at noon. Perhaps this pair is incubating.

Ohio River, Monaca Railroad Bridge:

Peregrine on the Monaca Railroad Bridge, 21 March 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Jeff Cieslak was in Monaca on 21 March and photographed the peregrines perching and flying around the superstructure. Sometimes they are hard to see.

Peregrine at Monaca Railroad Bridge, 21 March 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Allegheny River, 62nd Street Bridge to Aspinwall Railroad Bridge: No peregrines. One was present in January and February but no sightings since then.

Allegheny River, Tarentum Bridge:

Peregrine incubating, Tarentum Bridge nestbox, 16 March 2021 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Dave Brooke’s 16 March photo shows a peregrine very low in the nestbox. (Can you see her?) It appears this pair is already incubating.

Allegheny River, Rt 422 Graff Bridge, Kittanning:

Kittanning Bridge, May 2018 (photo by Kate St. John)

On 14 March I walked under the Graff Bridge at Manorville and immediately saw a peregrine perched on the upriver side. Peregrines are present. Are they nesting?

Observers needed! Visit these sites and tell me what you see.

(photos by Kate St. John, National Aviary falconcam at Cathedral of Learning, Jeff Cieslak, Dana Nesiti, Joe Ciferno, Dave Brooke)

4 Eggs at Pitt Peregrine Nest

Morela lays her 4th egg, 24 March 2021, 3:42pm (camera time)

Peregrine falcons lay 3-5 eggs per clutch. Four is the norm.

This afternoon Morela laid her fourth egg of 2021 at 3:38pm (real time, 3:42pm camera time) so it is likely that her clutch is now complete.

Meanwhile Downtown I watched from Mt. Washington through my scope as Dori laid an egg at the 3rd Avenue site at 3:23pm.

It was a busy day for Pittsburgh’s peregrines.

Tune in tomorrow for peregrine news from the active sites in southwestern Pennsylvania area.

Meanwhile, watch the peregrines at the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh.

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

Eagles and Peregrines Are On Different Schedules

First eaglet of 2021 in the Hays bald eagle nest, 23 March 2021 (photo from ASWP’s Bald Eagles of Western PA Facebook page)

23 March 2021

This week’s events at two Pittsburgh raptor nests show us that bald eagles and peregrine falcons are on different schedules during the breeding season.

At the Hays bald eagle nest the first eaglet of 2021 hatched early this morning. Audubon of Western PA announced that the eaglet broke out of his egg overnight and emerged at 3am, 23 March 2021. The “baby picture” above is from the ASWP Facebook page.

Meanwhile at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest, 3.5 miles away, Morela laid her third egg yesterday morning. Peregrines typically lay 3-5 eggs so Morela may lay more. We won’t know until we see it.

The peregrine timelapse video below shows the adults may be incubating, though I wonder about Morela’s 90 minutes on the perch from 4p – 5:30p. If incubating has begun the hatch date will be a month from now, approximately April 20-24.

Interestingly, though the peregrines started nesting a month later than the eagles they will more than catch up in the end. The Pitt peregrine nestlings will fly at least a week before the Hays eaglets.

The Hays eagles schedule this year is …

  • First eagle egg laid = 12 February 2021
  • First eagle egg hatched, first chick = 23 March 2021
  • First flight expected = guessing June 11 – 20

The Pitt peregrines’ schedule is …

  • First peregrine egg = 17 March 2021
  • First peregrine hatch (most will hatch on the same day) = approximately 20-25 April.
  • First flight expected = guessing 30 May to 4 June.

Soon the Hays bald eagle nest will have active fluffy chicks while the Pitt peregrines will embark on The Big Sit. For the next month it will be more interesting to watch the eagles than the peregrines.

Follow the Hays bald eagles at Bald Eagles in Western Pennsylvania – Audubon Society of Western PA on Facebook. Watch them live at ASWP: Hays Nest.

Watch the Cathedral of Learning peregrines at the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh.

(photo of first Hays eaglet from ASWP Pittsburgh Eagles Facebook page, video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

3 Eggs at Pitt Peregrine Nest

3 eggs at Pitt peregrine nest, 22 March 2021 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

22 March 2021

There are now three eggs at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. Morela laid the third egg today, 22 March 2021, at 6:36 am.

Morela lays her 3rd egg of 2021, 22 Mar 2021 6:36am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Ecco must have been watching closely. He came down to greet her less than a minute later.

Ecco greets Morela immediately after she laid her 3rd egg, 22 Mar 2021, 6:37am

Will she lay four? Watch the action on the streaming camera at the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh.

2nd Peregrine Egg at Pitt, 19 March, 8:27p

Morela with two eggs, 19 Mar 2021, 8:27pm (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

20 March 2021

Morela laid her second egg last evening around 8:27pm. Around midnight she took a break at the front perch so they were easy to see.

Two eggs, 20 Mar 2021, 12:44am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Watch them on the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh.

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

Are They Incubating?

Morela covers the egg while it rains, 18 Mar 2021 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

After Morela laid her first egg on St. Patrick’s Day many of you had questions about incubation. Here are some answers.

Why aren’t they sitting on the egg? Unlike bald eagles peregrines do not begin incubation until the female has laid her next-to-last egg. Only the female knows when that last egg will be. It hasn’t happened yet. Yesterday Ecco guarded instead of incubating. Click here for more details.

Ecco guarding the egg. Lots of rain (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

If incubation has not begun, why is Morela sitting on the egg? (photo at top)

Peregrines make sure their eggs stay dry and do not freeze. Yesterday was very rainy and very windy (raindrop on screenshot). Morela was keeping the egg dry.

How will we know when incubation has begun?

Incubation is the act of raising an egg’s internal temperature and keeping it there so that the embryo inside the egg develops into a baby bird (read more here). The temperature must remain elevated for the entire incubation period; otherwise the embryo dies.

Though it appears that incubation is just the act of laying one’s chest against an egg, the egg’s temperature will not rise if there are feathers between the egg and the parent’s skin. Feathers are excellent insulation so the parent has to have a bare patch of skin called a brood patch. It develops on brooding parents for the nesting season, lightly covered with feathers that the bird moves out of the way when brooding. Here’s what a brood patch looks like on another falcon, the American kestrel.

Brood patch on a female kestrel (photo by Jared B. Clarke, Birding Saskatchewan blog)

It is hard to tell if a bird is incubating by looking at a snapshot because you cannot see whether the bird exposed its brood patch. The best way to tell is by looking at the amount of time spent on the eggs. During incubation the adults spend about 98% of the day+night on eggs. This Day-in-a-Minute shows that Morela and Ecco are not spending much time on the egg.

Based on this evidence, incubation has not begun yet at the Cathedral of Learning nest.

Watch for more eggs to come at the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh.

p.s. What’s the advantage of delaying incubation? All the chicks hatch at once! Ducks, geese and shorebirds delay incubation, too.

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

Videos of 1st Pitt Peregrine Egg, 17 March 2021

Ecco visits the 1st egg, 17 Mar 2021, 1:23pm (photo from National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

18 March 2021

In case you missed it at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest: Morela laid her first egg of 2021 on 17 March at 11:50am. (Time code on the streaming camera says 11:53a but that camera is 3-4 mins early.)

The timelapse video below gives an overview of the day’s activity: Morela, Ecco and the egg.

Details of egg laying: As the next video begins Morela was standing over the scrape but is restless. She paces and squats, then Ecco arrives to bow. He watches intently while she concentrates on laying the egg. After he leaves Morela pushes (raises tail), pants and lays the egg at 11:53:45am. Notice how she makes sure not to touch the egg while it’s wet. She moves to shelter it from the sun.

Father bird’s first visit: It is always interesting to watch the father’s first visit to the egg, especially since Ecco is a first-time dad. Ecco arrived at 1:20pm, chirped at the egg, turned it, dug the scrape deeper, and sheltered the egg from the sun. He is taking an active role in the egg’s welfare.

Do not worry that the parents are not “sitting” on the egg right now. Unlike bald eagles peregrines do not begin incubation until the female has laid her next-to-last egg — and only the female knows when that egg will be.

Until incubation begins both parents guard the eggs and shelter them but will not “sit” on them to raise their temperature. They will be nearby but maybe not seen on camera.

Morela will probably lay 3-5 eggs, one every other day. If her total is four, incubation may begin on or around 21 March. We’ll have to wait and see.

Check my Peregrine FAQs for information on incubation, hatching and peregrine behavior.

Watch the action on the National Aviary falconcam at University of Pittsburgh.

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

p.s. Terzo is gone, last seen on 5 Feb. Ecco is the only male on site.