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
August 12, 2018: The Live Stream will stop but camera Snapshots will still be on.
Summer is a lazy time for peregrine falcons. The adults are molting and the young have left home.
At the Univ. of Pittsburgh I usually find a peregrine snoozing in a nook on the north face of the Cathedral of Learning. As expected the birds shun the nestbox except for a short spurt in late July. So we won’t miss much when …
Ozolio’s six month contract for streaming the National Aviary‘s falconcams ends this week on August 15.
The Cathedral of Learning and Gulf Tower live streams will go dark but you can still see snapshots at the links below:
Good news! The fledgling peregrine from the Elizabeth Bridge, who was found injured on the road deck on 3 June 2018, has recovered. He was released to a peregrine foster family last week.
This youngster was one of at least two fledglings at the Elizabeth Bridge. The other was found dead on the road deck on 5 June. The nest site his parents chose — above the road and without any ledges — makes it a dangerous location for first flight. (Read more here)
Thanks to the care he received at Wildlife Works rehabilitation facility in Youngwood the fledgling recovered from head trauma and was ready to go last week. On 25 June the Pennsylvania Game Commission released him to a foster family of wild peregrines in northeastern Pennsylvania where the chicks are the same age as he is.
While with his foster family he will strengthen his flight muscles, improve his flying skills, and learn to hunt. When he’s ready to leave he’ll disperse on his own.
His release shows that Pennsylvania’s wild peregrines are doing well. This year there are enough wild peregrine nests that youngsters in rehab facilities are released to foster families rather than to hacking. The Elizabeth Bridge juvenile and our Downtown peregrine chicks were all released to wild foster families.
In the photo above, PGC’s Patti Barber holds the Elizabeth Bridge juvenile just before he’s released near his foster family’s nest. The nest is on a cliff (not in the picture), high above a river that’s visible in the background.
Here’s another picture of him just after he was released. In a tree!
Congratulations and thanks to everyone who helped this young peregrine restart his life in the wild. Good luck to him.
(photos courtesy the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Southwest Region)
The peregrine falcon nestbox at the Cathedral of Learning is growing greener.
A plant sprouted near the front perch and grows a little every day. The seed probably came from the crop of a bird the peregrine family ate for dinner. We’ll have to do some weeding when the nestbox is cleaned next fall.
A NOTE REGARDING THE STREAMING VIDEO CAMERA: The National Aviary’s streaming video contract lasts six months and will expire some time this summer, perhaps soon. The stream will resume in February 2019 when the nesting season gets underway again. In the meantime, see snapshots of the nestbox at this link.
The airspace over Greenfield was busy with bird traffic on Sunday. One of those birds was in control.
Around noon Anne Marie Bosnyak, Linda Schmidt and I were chatting at a table outside the Staghorn Cafe when Anne Marie pointed out four distant turkey vultures. She’d left her binoculars in the car so she wasn’t sure about the fourth one. With my binoculars I identified it — a peregrine falcon. At that distance I couldn’t tell if it was immature or adult.
Most birds avoid flying near peregrines because of their swift pursuit of avian prey and fierce territoriality. The vultures were no exception. They circled together and moved westward, away from the peregrine heading south.
The peregrine rose in the heated air, then noticed a pair of dark birds rapidly heading west and turned to follow them.
Ravens. As if to acknowledge the peregrine’s presence one of them tumbled three times in the sky but they didn’t slow down. The ravens left without incident.
The peregrine circled lazily in the heat and then something really interesting flew below him — an adult bald eagle heading toward the Monongahela River.
As I watched, the peregrine dove several times at the bald eagle and drove it lower and away. Even through binoculars I could see the eagle flinch as it tried to evade the peregrine. They disappeared over the horizon toward Hays.
In Pennsylvania peregrine falcons control the airspace whenever they want to. Bald eagles don’t stand a chance, as shown in Peter Bell’s photo above.
Though two of the chicks passed away I am happy to learn that the remaining two were fostered at a wild peregrine nest on a cliff in north central Pennsylvania. One of them is shown in a tree above just after release. He was wetted down to insure he would not fly abruptly.
Fostering is much better than hacking. In hacking, the chicks have no parents to learn from. In fostering, the chicks are placed in a family with chicks of similar age. The family accepts the newcomers and the parents feed and teach everyone.
“The Pennsylvania Game Commission on May 31 transported the chicks from a wildlife rehabilitation facility to the nest, where both adult and young peregrines had been seen. It quickly was apparent the adults at the nest accepted the new chicks as their own. The chicks were seen at the nest the next day, with chicks that had hatched in the nest and their parents.”
Elizabeth Bridge, Monongahela River, Allegheny County
Unfortunately, the Elizabeth Bridge nest site is dangerous for peregrine fledglings. This year we’ve learned that they land on the roadway on first flight. One fledgling was found dead on 5 June, the other was found injured on 3 June and taken to Wildlife Works rehab center.
During the week of 10 June observers checked the bridge often for signs of continued nest activity — especially looking for food deliveries — but there were none. The parents remain at the bridge. PennDOT has resumed construction work on the entire bridge.
Tarentum Bridge, Allegheny River, Allegheny-Westmoreland Counties
By now at least one of the three juveniles has fledged. Rob Protz reported this activity on 20 June 2018:
Tarentum: Fledge watch Wed. evening (between the raindrops).
The smaller juvenile was not seen. The two larger juveniles were present, mostly on top of the nestbox, though one did wander down to the downriver end of the railing early on after 6 PM. There was one visit by an adult – probably a food drop – but since it was mostly behind the box, it wasn’t very visible. One juvie did jump down and stay behind the box for a while at that point.
Many of you have asked about the status of Dori and Louie’s peregrine chicks, taken from their Downtown Pittsburgh nest on 8 May 2018. I have no news of the chicks, but I do know the PA Game Commission planned to hack them at an undisclosed location. Based on the chicks’ age, I think this would have happened in early June.
What is peregrine hacking?
Hacking is a falconry term for the process of introducing captive chicks without parents to independent free flight. The Peregrine Recovery Program used this method to restore peregrines to the wild after they went extinct east of the Mississippi. Every wild peregrine in the eastern U.S. is descended from one or more hacked birds.
Yesterday Patience Fisher and I went birding in Clarion County. On the way back I said, “Let’s go look at peregrines.”
Promising a view of peregrine falcons can ruin one’s credibility but I was hoping to see them at the Rt 422 Graff Bridge near Kittanning. I thought they’d be there but their nesting status hadn’t been confirmed yet. So why not try?
As soon as we got out of our cars in Manorville I heard and saw a begging juvenile calling from the power tower. Before I could get him in the scope he left the tower, pursuing another peregrine.
We walked the Armstrong Trail in the direction the two birds flew. Finding the adult pictured above was easy. She was perched on the bridge catwalk, looking down into the trees below, and kakking. Elsewhere under the bridge — not nearby — we heard another begging juvenile.
Success! I borrowed Patience’s cellphone to digiscope the adult.
We certainly saw one adult and one juvenile. I think the distant begging sound was a second juvenile. Here’s how I reached that conclusion:
Guess #1: The first juvenile pursued the adult to that area of the bridge but he landed below in a place she considered unsafe, so she was kakking to tell him to move. I’ve seen this kind of interaction at Pitt. Kakking means “I see danger.” Kakking without dive-bombing means the danger is not a predator to be driven away — so the danger is something else.
Guess #2: I think there are two juveniles. The other begging call was far away from the original action and its tone sounded like a juvenile who thought it couldn’t/wouldn’t fly to pursue the adult.
Guess #3: The adult was female. This is the shakiest guess of all. Could have been the male.
If you’d like to see these birds for yourself, visit the viewing area soon. Click here for directions.
(photo by Kate St. John; thanks to Patience Fisher for loaning her cellphone)