Dana Nesiti has been keeping up with the peregrine family at the Westinghouse Bridge by photographing them every few days. On Wednesday 27 May 2020 he saw the chicks for the first time, pictured above near the edge of the nest area.
Their success is due to the care and feeding supplied by their parents, Hammond (male) and Ms. Indiana (banded female from South Bend, Indiana, 2016). This slideshow of Dana’s 17-24 May photos shows how the pair cooperates to bring in food.
Hammond delivers prey to Indiana at the Westinghouse Bridge, 17 May 2020 (photo by Dana Nestiti)
(photo by Dana Nesiti)
Indiana flies toward the nest with prey, 17 May 2020 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
Repositioning the prey, 17 May 2020 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
(photo by Dana Nesiti)
Indiana flies into the nest area at Westinghouse Bridge (arrow),17 May 2020 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
Babysitting is sleep inducing, 24 May 2020 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
If you want an easy look at young peregrine falcons the next week is the time to do it. Four youngsters at the Tarentum Bridge are ledge walking and will make their first flight some time between May 31 and June 7.
Yesterday I visited the Tarentum Boat Ramp and digi-scoped these photos with my cellphone. All four youngsters were preening fluff from their feathers and walking along the middle bridge pier. The top photo has three birds in it; the third is hidden behind his siblings.
The fourth youngster walked over from the nestbox and jumped up to the step.
Meanwhile their mother watched from the far pier. She turned her head away just as I snapped this photo.
The youngsters are changing fast. Just two days earlier they were much whiter as seen in John English’s photos from Memorial Day, 25 May 2020. Next week they’ll be completely brown.
The youngsters will fly soon so visit the Tarentum Bridge now through June 7. Click here for a map. This is the week to see them!
Many who watch the Cathedral of Learning falconcam feel bad that Morela is incubating her eggs alone. Why isn’t one of her suitors, Terzo or Ecco, helping her incubate?
A clue comes from the answer to this question: What makes an an active raptor like a peregrine falcon want to stay immobile on eggs for more than a month?
Similar to us humans, the breeding season in birds is governed by hormones. Luteinizing hormones prompt testosterone production in males and progesterone (egg formation) in females. Then, as described in the Raptor Resource Project Blog …
Shortly before incubation, female birds (and male birds that share incubation duties) experience another big hormonal change. Prolactin, a hormone which promotes incubation in birds, rises sharply while other hormones decrease. Opioid peptides stimulate prolactin secretion, which may explain why even active birds become lethargic while incubating their eggs.
Morela is an active peregrine but after she laid her second egg her incubation hormones kicked in and she slowed way down. In this Day in a Minute video from 18 May 2020 you see her lying flat and often asleep on the eggs. Ecco arrived at 6:38pm, photo below.
Ecco sometimes approaches the eggs as if he’ll incubate but mostly he’s in courtship mode (see this 13 minute video). On Tuesday morning before dawn (19 May 2020) he came to the nest and greeted Morela. When she left he approached the eggs, but didn’t incubate.
It appears that Ecco knows what to do but is unable to begin. I suspect his incubation hormones have not kicked in.
Morela will stop incubating when her prolactin shuts off. Meanwhile she’ll spend time away from the eggs on a daily basis, “stretching her legs.” Without steady incubation the eggs won’t survive.
The only way to see into the Downtown peregrine nest on Third Avenue is to observe it from Mt. Washington. Yesterday Lori Maggio took long range photos from the overlook and saw Dori, some chicks and Dori’s mate!
Here are her photos and observations:
I looked this afternoon between 1:30 and 2 pm and saw both Dori and the male in the nest and what I believe was Dori feeding the chick(s). When I first got up there I could only see Dori and what I believe a chick under her. When I looked a few minutes later I saw both adults. He was standing at the opening of the nest and it appeared as though Dori was feeding the chick(s). I imagine he brought the prey to her. After a few minutes in the nest he flew out. So it appears that she and her mate are raising at least one chick. I have included some pictures and one of what the nest site looks like empty so you can compare.
— email from Lori Maggio, 18 May 2020
For comparison, here’s the nest site at other times of year when there are no peregrines nesting in it.
Yesterday at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest, Morela incubated her eggs most of the time but took breaks in the morning and afternoon. This timelapse video gives you an idea of much time she spent on the eggs.
At 9:03am Morela stood up and bowed to an unseen male peregrine who was out of camera view. He never came down to the nest.
In the 6 o’clock hour Morela called but neither Terzo nor Ecco showed up.
Incubation was intermittent and no mate arrived to help. With this sort of treatment, Morela’s eggs are not going to hatch.
Everyone was surprised when Morela laid a second egg yesterday at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest and appeared to start incubation. It was a week since she laid her first egg and it’s unclear if either male, Terzo or Ecco, will assist in incubation. Are the eggs likely to hatch?
Fertile eggs will hatch if they are kept at the right temperature — constantly — for the right amount of time. Once the eggs’ temperature is raised by the skin (brood patch) of the parents laid against the shell, the embryo starts to develop into a chick. If the temperature is not constant or it does not last for the right number of days the developing embryo dies.
Delaying the start of incubation is a normal strategy for many species. Ducks, shorebirds and peregrine falcons wait to start incubation until the clutch is (nearly) complete. This is not harmful to the early eggs as long as they are kept from freezing and moisture.
However, once incubation starts it must not stop until the job is done. Uncovering the eggs for more than a few minutes, depending on outside temperature, is fatal because the developing embryo is too far along.
So when Morela appeared to incubate for several hours yesterday (see video) and then stopped overnight, the chances for her eggs dimmed.
At 2:15pm today Morela laid a second egg at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine nest. It’s been a week since she laid the first egg on 9 May so this is quite surprising. Peregrine falcons normally lay eggs about 2-3 days apart.
This five minute video captures the moment she laid the second egg, though it’s hard to see it.
Soon, Morela appeared to start incubation. She deepened the scrape, positioned herself over the eggs and jogged her body so her belly feathers could fall away from her brood patch. Then she laid flat on the eggs.
This activity was short lived, however. By 4:15pm she had left the nest.
Who knows what will happen next. If she incubates the eggs will a male assist her? And if so, will it be Terzo or Ecco?
Since his arrival at the Cathedral of Learning in late February, Ecco has always spent more time on camera with Morela than the resident male peregrine Terzo. Whenever they’re at the nest, Morela and Ecco court and bow for 3 to 8 minutes while Terzo visits for 15 seconds if we see him at all.
Ecco usually has to be persuaded to visit the nest, but on Wednesday 13 May he initiated courtship that lasted nearly three minutes.
It appears that Terzo is fading into the background while Ecco is becoming more established.
Too bad Terzo and Ecco didn’t sort this out in February!
The video below of Morela and Ecco on Sunday 10 May, 1:18p, provides a few answers. In it, Morela encourages Ecco to come bow with her at the nest. He joins her and bows but is obviously distracted and warily watches the sky. Morela tries to attract his attention. They exchange a glance. She gives up and leaves.
In the clip you can see that Morela’s crop is full. Since she’s bowing with Ecco just after eating, my guess is that he provided the food.
Will Morela lay another egg? I doubt it. She has passed the 2-3 day window when a new egg should appear. More importantly, egg production depends on the amount of attention she receives from her mate and she needs a lot of it. Ecco and Terzo are too busy to pay attention.