Yesterday (5 March 2020) Lori Maggio saw lots of peregrine interaction at the USX Tower(*) at 11:45am. She wrote:
Dori flew up Grant toward USX, circled around it and landed about 50 floors up on the corner that overlooks Grant. Meanwhile, the Mister was also flying up Grant but landed on the Union Trust building calling to Dori. She was still circling USX so he quickly flew off toward her, circled several times until he reached her level, and they mated!
“This is the second time I’ve seen him/them land on the Union Trust building on the Grant Street side. He brought her prey there the last time.”
— observations from Lori Maggio, 5 March 2020
The peregrines are also active at their Third Avenue nest site. Lori photographed one of them on the nest ledge at 8am.
Last week Lori confirmed that the female is still Dori with this photograph of her bands. Though unreadable they’re a unique color combination: Black/green on left and Purple on right. This bird uses Dori’s favorite perches, another sign that it’s Dori.
Thanks to Lori Maggio for following Downtown Pittsburgh’s peregrines. We always need more observers. You can help by checking the Third Avenue area.
Keep looking up. There’s peregrine excitement in the air!
(photos by Lori Maggio)
(*) USX Tower is the city’s tallest building. It has a “UPMC” sign at the top.
UPDATE, 6 March 2020, 6:44a: This morning at 6:44a Terzo brought breakfast to Morela which she carried to the nest. They bowed for nine minutes. In the photo you can see his bands and the prey in her talons.
Terzo ruled at the Cathedral of Learning all day yesterday, 4 March 2020. He bowed with Morela on camera several times. The unbanded male peregrine never appeared.
6:56-7:00a: Just after dawn, Terzo called to Morela to bow at the nest. (Her face is at bottom right.)
2:05-2:11p: Terzo visited again, calling to Morela. Here’s a closeup showing his bands. The pair is bowing in the photo at top.
2:11-2:40p: When Terzo left the nest he didn’t leave the building. I arrived at Schenley Plaza around 2:30p and saw him perched on a gargoyle on 32 South while Morela was perched at the nest. At 2:40p Terzo flew away to make his “great circle” route(*), soaring and patrolling the edge of his domain.
At 2:43p Morela saw a red-tailed hawk flying over Phipps Conservatory from her perch at the front of the nest. She flew fast, wings pumping, and attacked the hawk. The red-tail had to flip upside down to defend itself. Morela chased him away.
5:39-5:44p: At dusk Terzo called to Morela; they bowed at the end of the day.
It’s too soon to tell if the contest is over between Terzo and the unbanded male peregrine but yesterday was a positive sign.
(*) NOTE: The “great circle” is a patrolling trip that peregrines make from the Cathedral of Learning. The peregrine departs in one direction, soaring slowly, and starts to make a circle some distance away. The bird is soon out of sight. If we watch long enough, we see the peregrine return from another direction. We assume he’s made a circle.
Yesterday there were many turnovers and surprises in the contest between Terzo and the unbanded male peregrine vying for the Cathedral of Learning nest. By the end of Tuesday there was still no clear winner. Here’s the play-by-play in snapshots on 3 March 2020. All photos are from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh.
7:08-7:19a: Terzo brings food for Morela which she holds as they bow at the nest.
7:52-9:49a: Morela waits in the rain. (The blob is a raindrop on the camera cover.)
11:50-11:53a: New male briefly visits the nest and bows with Morela who raises her tail high.
12:29-12:34p: Surprise! Terzo in the gully, jumps up to bow with Morela.
2:38-2:43p: Morela at the nest alone.
3:11-3:29p: New male bows with Morela, then scans the sky for Terzo (photo at top). Terzo is still out there, as he proves later in the day!
5:33-5:35p: Terzo calls to Morela and they bow at the nest. After he leaves she remains at the nest.
Lingering until 6:18p: As the day ends Morela leaves to roost elsewhere on the building.
The contest between Terzo and an unbanded male will continue until someone wins.
Yesterday morning I was surprised to learn that a new male peregrine was at the Cathedral of Learning nest last Thursday, 27 February. After much research I’ve discovered that …
Terzo and an unbanded peregrine have been vying for the Cathedral of Learning nest for at least a week. The contest is ongoing and there is no clear winner yet. Sometimes Terzo is at the nest, sometimes it’s the new guy. Here’s what has happened so far:
24 February, 3:40p: Terzo rules. As proof, he and Morela bow at the nest for about five minutes.
25 and 26 February: For two days there is almost no activity at the nest, indicating that the peregrines are busy with other concerns. Morela makes four short visits alone. During her last visit on 26 February at 11:47am, she bows to a peregrine off camera who never appears.
27 February, 3:44p: New unbanded male peregrine at the nest. He and Morela bow for three minutes.
Friday 28 February 2020 is a back and forth day. Terzo rules at dawn and dusk. The new male bows with Morela at 1:07pm. Three photos below.
28 February, 7:00a: Terzo bows briefly with Morela before dawn.
28 February, 1:07p: New male courts Morela for seven minutes. See the video here.
28 February, 5:42p: Terzo is back at dusk.
29 February: Terzo is still in charge. He bows with Morela for two minutes at 7:33a.
1 March 2020: Inconclusive! The peregrines spend so much time away from the nest that they don’t notice when two ravens soar over the Cathedral of Learning and swoop near the nest at 11:07a. Ravens are very unusual on campus and would have been chased away by the peregrines … if they’d been at home.
In the afternoon, Morela spends less than half an hour at the nest. Twice she bows to a peregrine off camera.
Today, 2 March 2020, 7:35a: Terzo rules. Morela visited the nest twice before dawn and bowed to an unseen peregrine. Then Terzo visited the nest alone at 7:35a.
BREAKING NEWS! The male peregrine in this video is unbanded. That means he is not Terzo! Stay tuned for more news tomorrow. Meanwhile, a big thank you goes to “Small Town James” who pointed this out in the YouTube video described below.
Courtship between Morela and her mate (not Terzo!) is intensifying as egg laying approaches this month.
On Friday 28 February 2020 the peregrines bowed, swayed, and “ee-chupped” at the Cathedral of Learning nest for seven minutes. Sometimes they nearly touched beaks.
This seven minute video is long but it shows their entire “ledge display.” Notice how the male steps and sways side to side while Morela bows very low. This pair is bonding closely.
We’re all looking forward to eggs in mid March. Meanwhile we’ll be watching to learn more about the new male peregrine at Pitt.
In the next four to six weeks peregrine falcons will continue courting and claiming nest sites near Pittsburgh. This long article describes how active they’ve been in just 10 days. Right now is the best time of year to see peregrines in western Pennsylvania. We need observers. I hope you can help.
Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh: Morela and Terzo continue to court every day at the Cathedral of Learning nest. They were especially active on Thursday, 20 February.
Downtown Pittsburgh: Peregrines have been seen several times, February 13 to 23.
On 13 February Lori Maggio saw Dori and her new mate perched together on the Oxford parking garage at Smithfield and Third Avenue.
Yesterday, 23 Feb, John English, of Pittsburgh Falconuts Facebook page, and I visited Flag Plaza and saw a peregrine perched on USX Tower (the building with the big UPMC sign). John snapped a photo just as the bird took off!
Observers needed Downtown. Please check the Third Avenue nest site to see if the peregrines are hanging out there this spring.
OHIO RIVER, Monaca-Beaver Railroad Bridge -or- Monaca-East Rochester Bridge: No one has reported peregrines in the Monaca-Beaver area since Karena Johnson saw one on 2 February 2020 but the railroad bridge seems to be the favored hangout. Jeff Cieslak’s photo below, taken in November 2019, shows where you’re likely to see them. Visit Bridgewater Crossing Park on the Beaver side of the Ohio River for a good view of the bridge. Observers needed!
OHIO RIVER, Ambridge Bridge: Last Thursday afternoon, 20 Feb, Karen Lang and I stopped at Ohioview Avenue to watch a peregrine perched on the Ambridge Bridge. Through my scope I could see the bird is not banded. (In the bridge photo below, the peregrine is between the towers on the near-side crossbeam.) Karen and I tried to look for potential nest sites under the bridge but viewing areas on both sides of the river are inaccessible.
OHIO RIVER, Neville Island I-79 Bridge: PennDOT reports that the Neville Island I-79 Bridge will undergo extensive rehabilitation beginning 26 March 2020. Meanwhile, peregrines are active at the bridge and likely to nest there. Two were seen on 16 Feb by Mark Vass, one on 17 Feb by Laura Marshall.
Fortunately, PennDOT is coordinating the bridge project with the PA Game Commission which determined that the work, based on the details provided, will not interfere with the nesting peregrines in 2020. Of course, if you see any activities that are close enough to the nest to cause disturbance — especially if you see something that needs immediate attention for the birds’ safety — contact the PGC Regional office at 724-238-9523.
OHIO RIVER, McKees Rocks Bridge: John Flannigan saw a male peregrine at the McKees Rocks Bridge on 13 February at 3:29pm. John’s photo is below.
ALLEGHENY RIVER, Graff Bridge, Rt 422, Kittanning: There are no reports of peregrine activity this month; I think no one’s been birding there. On 30 January Sam Guthrie saw a peregrine from the Armstrong Trail at Manorville. My photo below shows what you’ll see from the trail at that location. Observers needed!
ALLEGHENY RIVER, Tarentum Bridge: Peregrines are quite active at the Tarentum Bridge and are seen nearly every day. Dave Brooke photographed one on 13 Feb 2020. Amy Henrici saw one on Saturday 22 Feb 2020. John English and I saw one perched at the nestbox yesterday. Stop by Tarentum Bridge Park for an easy view of peregrine falcons.
ALLEGHENY RIVER, 62nd Street Bridge: John English and I stopped by the 62nd Street Bridge yesterday, 23 Feb, and we saw nothing. This bridge has a nestbox on the downriver side though we could not see it from our location. Observers needed!
MONONGAHELA RIVER WATERSHED, Westinghouse Bridge over Turtle Creek: Peregrines are also quite active at the Westinghouse Bridge and seen nearly every day. Dana Nesiti saw the pair early on 16 February. John English and I saw one yesterday afternoon.
As I said, right now is the best time of year to see peregrines in western Pennsylvania. Visit any or all of these sights and report what you see on eBird or leave a comment below.
Though Pennsylvania’s peregrine falcons don’t lay eggs until March, pairs court at their nests nearly every day in February. The ritual, called a “ledge display,” is hidden at most sites but is easy to see on the National Aviary’s falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh.
This month Terzo and Morela have increased their ledge displays at the Cathedral of Learning. Their ritual follows the same pattern that all peregrines perform.
The male (Terzo) arrives first, swaggering in a high stepping tip-toe gait on his way to the scrape. The “scrape” is the bowl they dig in the gravel where she will lay eggs.
He bows and calls to his mate to join him.
When the female (Morela) arrives, they bow low over the scrape and say “ee-chup, ee-chup,” bowing repeatedly. The male usually bows lower than the female. Notice that she is much larger than he is.
As the female gets closer to egg laying, the ceremony lasts longer and becomes more intimate. They call softly, twist their heads to opposite sides, sometimes touch beaks.
The male always leaves the nest first, then the female.
As egg laying time approaches the female will linger to prepare the nest and dig the scrape.
You’ll see all these behaviors, though abbreviated, in yesterday’s three-minute visit at 12:55pm (17 February 2020).
Here’s a tip on when to see Terzo and Morela on camera: For the past few days, 14-17 Feb 2020, they have visited the nest around 4:30pm or as late as 4:55pm. Will they show up at 4:30pm today for a ledge display? (I hope they cooperate!)
In the run up to egg laying, peregrine falcons perch prominently and perform stunning aerial courtship displays. February and March are the best months for confirming peregrine nest sites and discovering new ones. In southwestern Pennsylvania we need observers to look for peregrines. I hope you can help.
In 2019 we found 10 peregrine pairs in the Pittsburgh region. Two on buildings (red dots at Cathedral of Learning and Downtown Pittsburgh) and eight on bridges (blue dots).
Two of the bridges, Ambridge and 62nd Street, were not(*) confirmed even though adult peregrines are regularly seen there. Nesting can’t be confirmed until someone sees a peregrine take food to a nest or a nestling/juvenile in or near a nest.
There are 10+ Peregrine Sites to watch in southwestern PA. Please leave a comment if you can help or if you’ve seen anything. (Confirmed nest sites in prior years are marked with #.)
Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh #: This nest is on camera so we’ll easily confirm it this year.
Downtown Pittsburgh #: We know there’s a peregrine pair Downtown but we don’t know who they are (Louie died last summer) and we don’t know where they’ll nest. Lori Maggio is Downtown’s lead observer but the area is a big place to monitor. Help wanted!
OHIO RIVER, Monaca-Beaver Railroad Bridge -or- Monaca-East Rochester Bridge # Peregrines choose one of these bridges to nest on each year — it’s all the same territory. A pair was seen on the railroad bridge in November. Observers needed!
OHIO RIVER, Ambridge Bridge: This site hasn’t been confirmed as a nesting site though peregrines are seen here often. Mark Vass saw one on 8 Feb 2020, Karen Lang saw two on 9 Feb and one on 10 Feb & 11. More observers needed!
OHIO RIVER, Neville Island I-79 Bridge #: In use as a nest site since 2012, Jeff Cieslak photographed a peregrine on the bridge on 4 February 2020.
OHIO RIVER, McKees Rocks Bridge#: Even though this bridge has been a nest site since 2008 it’s hard to monitor because it’s 1.38 miles long. Peregrines are best seen from the McKees Rocks side. I haven’t heard of any sightings yet.
ALLEGHENY RIVER, Graff Bridge, Rt 422, Kittanning#: In use by peregrines since 2016, this bridge is best monitored from the bike trail under on the Kittanning side. I haven’t heard of any recent sightings.
ALLEGHENY RIVER, Freeport Bridge: Peregrines haven’t been known to nest here but one was seen during the winter. Is this a new nest site? Observers needed.
ALLEGHENY RIVER, Tarentum Bridge#: The Tarentum Bridge, which has a nestbox, has been in use since 2010. Dave Brooke photographed a peregrine here on 30 Jan 2020.
ALLEGHENY RIVER, Highland Park and 40th Street Bridges: These bridges may be too close to existing territories … or are they? Are peregrines hanging out at these bridges? Observers needed!
ALLEGHENY RIVER, 62nd Street Bridge: There’s been a nestbox on this bridge since 2007 but no peregrines on site until 2019 when a banded female was identified and a fledgling seen at Tree Pittsburgh near the bridge. I hear it’s easy to see the nest box from the Pittsburgh downriver side. Be the first to confirm nesting at this site!
MONONGAHELA RIVER WATERSHED, Westinghouse Bridge over Turtle Creek#: Peregrines have used this bridge since 2010. Dana Nesiti photographed one here on 9 Feb 2020.
Look for peregrines in February and March. We need your help to re-confirm every site.
Please leave a comment if you can help, if you need directions, or if you’ve seen anything. Thanks!