Reference Links and Frequently Asked Questions about Peregrine Falcons
Click here for the latest news on Pittsburgh’s peregrines.
- Status of Local Peregrines in Southwestern PA: Where & when seen. Updated often during the nesting season
- Cathedral of Learning Streaming Falconcam, Snapshot cam and Fact Sheet at the University of Pittsburgh
- Peregrines removed from Pennsylvania Endangered/Threatened Species Lists, 2021
- Pennsylvania Game Commission Peregrine Falcon Management Plan, 2013-2022 which monitored recovery
- Excellent Peregrine FAQ fact sheet from London Peregrine Partnership, UK.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY:
- Peregrine Falcons: Nature’s Fighter Jets: audio and text from Bird Files on the Allegheny Front
- History of Peregrine Falcon nests in the Pittsburgh area (PDF)
- Peregrines fully recovered in PA; removed from PA Threatened Species list 2021
- First Peregrines in Pittsburgh: Gulf Tower news 1990-1991
- Annual Highlights from Pittsburgh area peregrine nests
- Timing of peregrine nesting season in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Prominent perching: Peregrines make themselves noticeable.
- Cooperative Hunting: The pair hunts together. Watch out below!
- Ledge displays: A description of peregrines’ courtship at the nest.
- Courtship flights: Peregrines court on the wing. Here’s how.
- Courtship feeding: The male provides food for his mate during courtship and nesting.
- Peregrines mating: How it’s done.
- Fidelity to their mates and fighting: Do peregrines mate for life? How do they acquire a new mate? Do they fight to the death?
NEST, EGGS, INCUBATION, HATCHING:
- Nest is on gravel: Why doesn’t the nest have sticks? Why is it called a scrape?
- Nest box dimensions: Nest boxes are not a requirement but were provided at several sites.
- Start of egg laying: Why do the females at different nests lay earlier or later than others?
- Time between eggs: When will the next egg be laid?
- Red eggs: Why are the eggs red?
- Incubation: What roles do the parents play during incubation?
- Not sitting on eggs (during egg laying period): Why isn’t the mother peregrine sitting on the eggs?
- Not sitting on eggs (after incubation begins): There’s another reason, too.
- Eating rocks: Is the female peregrine eating rocks from the nest?
- Eyes are white? Why do the bird’s eyes look white on camera?
- Why face down on the nest? Why is the adult peregrine face down on its nest?
- Hatching: when? When will the eggs hatch?
- Hatching: how does it work? How does the chick get out of the egg? How long does it take?
PEREGRINE CHICKS AND FAMILY LIFE:
- Peregrine vocalizations: What do their sounds mean?
- Peregrine chicks week-to-week development in pictures
- Parental roles with chicks: What roles do the parents play in feeding and raising the chicks?
- Hungry: Are the chicks getting enough to eat?
- How much does a peregrine eat in a day? (from Univ of Toledo FAQs) “An adult peregrine eats about 70 grams (2 1/2 ounces) of food per day. This is equal to about two blackbirds.” The amount is lower for a small chick.
- Leftovers: After the chicks are done eating, what happens to the leftovers?
- Where are the parents? Aren’t they afraid their eggs or young will be hurt?
- Did one of the babies fall from the nest? Help! I can’t see all of them on the camera!
- Juvenile plumage: The young are brown. How long until they look like their parents?
- Ledge walking: Here’s what peregrine nestlings do before they try to fly.
- Fledging: How do the young learn to fly? Is it gradual or do the fledglings just jump one day?
- Dispersal from the nest: Where do young peregrines go when they leave home?
- Adults at the empty nest: Why do the adult peregrines visit the nest after their babies have flown? Do they miss their babies?
- The solitary nature of peregrines: Do peregrines have a long-lasting love for their young? Do they like being with humans?
- Aging: What happens as peregrines age? How long do they live?
NAMING, BANDING AND PEREGRINE WATCHING:
- Naming: How do peregrines get their names? Why do some have no names?
- Banding: Why and how are peregrines banded?
- Fledge Watch: What is a Peregrine Fledge Watch?
- Fledge Watch Tips: How do you know if a chick has flown? Is that flying peregrine a chick or an adult?
- Why don’t they fledge in the rain? Here’s why we cancel Fledge Watch if it’s raining.
- Where is the nest at Pitt? Where should I look from the ground to see the peregrines at Pitt?
- Who is who at the Cathedral of Learning nest? As of 10 November 2019.
- Where is the nest in Downtown Pittsburgh? The Downtown peregrines own the entire territory and choose between two nest sites: Gulf Tower and Third Avenue.
- Who is who at the Downtown nest? This comparison was written in 2010. The same pair uses either the Gulf Tower (in 2017) or the Third Avenue site (in 2018).
- “I love Peregrines” bumper sticker Show you love peregrines with this bumper sticker featuring Dorothy, the original matriarch at the Cathedral of Learning.
- Tips for Viewing the Falconcams, 2018.
- Why I’m addicted to nestcams … and you should be too.
25 thoughts on “Peregrine FAQs”
I have a hard time identifying what the parents are feeding the chicks, but sometimes it looks like a small rodent. Do they eat rodents as well as birds?
Peregrine falcons eat birds almost exclusively. In all the years I’ve observed the peregrines at the University of Pittsburgh I have never seen the adults come anywhere near the ground – not even if they drop their prey – so it would surprise me if they went there to hunt. It’s most likely you’re seeing a dead bird without a head. Prey quickly becomes unrecognizable when the peregrines start to eat it!
It is 8:45pm and I don’t see the parents on the nest. Are they close by ? Do they return at night? And if not where are they?
Thank you so much for the wealth of information. It is awesome to be able to watch the chicks and how the parents interact with them and care for them.
Do peregrines recognize their offspring if encountered later in life and if so, do they acknowledge them? I am curious about this.
I don’t know for sure if peregrines recognize their offspring later in life but I will tell you a story that causes me to think they do.
Several years ago – around 2005 or so – Dr. Tony Bledsoe, Karen Lang and I were standing on the north side of the Cathedral of Learning chatting about peregrines. We could see both Dorothy and Erie perched on the building. As we watched Dorothy made a wailing sound and both birds flew out to meet a peregrine approaching the building. The visiting peregrine seemed to know the building and its perches. Dorothy and Erie flew with it back and forth across the north face. There was no hostility. Eventually it flew off to the east and was gone.
I think it’s possible the visiting peregrine was one of their offspring who came back to see them briefly and that’s why they greeted it and didn’t attack. But we’ll never know for sure.
Thanks Kate for sharing the story. I bet it was one of their offspring.
Am wondering, how long after the chicks fledge do they continue to return to their nest?
They come back for a day or two, especially if one of their siblings hasn’t fledged and is still being fed at the nest, but then they are gone. At that point the only way to see them is from the ground.
Thank you for the information. Will miss being able to watch them up close.
Kate, i have a couple of questions about the peregrine falcons-I have been watching a couple of other webcams one here in NJ & one in Manitobu. I was wondering do the birds ever drink water or anything? I was watching the chicks here in Jersey eating & it looked like one of them ate the leg from whatever bird that the parent brought for dinner to them & sometimes it looks like they are even eating a bit of the feathers from the prey. Do they eat the leg & feathers from time to time?
Thanks for posting the pictures of the fledlings-I don’t watch this website as often now since the birds are rarely in the nest anymore but I can still watch the other 2 websites for about another month since the chicks on both were born around Memorial Day.
Peregrines don’t need to drink water because they get enough liquid from the birds they eat. And yes, they do eat feathers and feet sometimes. This gives them roughage so their crops can grind up their food. The crop substitutes for their lack of teeth.
Walking in Schenley Park Monday morning this week down by Panther Hollow Lake we saw a young Red Tailed Hawk walking on the ground picking at something and as we got closer “he” flew up on the lamp post. We could see that he still is learning to fly a little better. Later we saw him from the bridge above still going from one lamp post to the next.
I am curious to know what how large the chicks are now and if know, at birth. They are growing so fast.
Also, I couldn’t find this in the FAQs, but when do you expect them to start to fledge?
Stephanie, the chicks are the size of the eggs at birth. They fit into an egg 2.13″ long by 1.645″ wide. (that’s 54mm x 41.8mm) As soon as they hatch they grow rapidly and are the same size as their parents by the time they fledge at approximately 40 days old.
I have been looking through some of the archives and have noticed that some of the birds and other food brought to the babies are missing their heads. Is this just part of the quick kill, or is there special nutrient value in the head/brain for the parents?
I am learning so much through these sites and on your blog ect. it is wonderful.
Thanks in advance for your time.
Peregrines kill their prey by biting the back of the neck & severing the spinal cord. Usually they take the head off.
A “properly prepared” prey item has no head and has had its breast feathers plucked. During courtship the males carefully prepare prey this way and offer it to their mates. E2 is so fastidious about food preparation that he’ll make Dorothy wait until he’s done.
These niceties are thrown to the winds after the chicks hatch. The parents are so busy that they often don’t bother to take off the head or pluck the prey before bringing it to the nest.
What does it mean when you say a peregrine was “hacked?” I must have missed it when you explained that earlier. Thanks so much for your blog. This is my first year following it. Mary McKinley
There’s a good explanation of hacking on the Virginia Dept of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website. Look for the description in the middle of the webpage, the paragraph above the picture of a box on the right. The box is a “hack box.”
Hi Kate. Very nice grisly history of peregrines! Nice to see so many peregrines in the Pgh area these days. Far cry from back in late 1980’s when Charles Bier and Steve Branca built the first nest boxes on the Gulf Tower….
Steve might correct me on this, but as I recall it was his access through the Allegheny Conference’s corporate leaders that opened up the Gulf Tower and that corporation to the idea of hosting the first peregrine nest boxes in Pittsburgh.
Keep up the good blog. Karen
This might be a strange question, but would peregrines mate with their offspring/parents and/or siblings? If so, any idea how common the occurrence is?
Monika, I don’t know of any incident of an offspring/parent pair. I have heard of one incident of siblings pairing but do not know if they were born in the same clutch. I suspect not.
Keep in mind that peregrines are *not* social creatures. They do not know their extended family because they do not associate with them. As my friend Karen says, “They never have Thanksgiving dinner together.” Siblings from the same parents born in different years would not know each other at all.
Humans are social creatures, we know usually know our extended family, and we have taboos against mating with anyone too closely related. In some social groups, first cousins are too closely related. In others it is/was perfectly acceptable for first cousins to marry. Example: European royalty in the 1700s.
First off, awesome blog. I met you a couple of years ago when you were doing some bird watching at the Cathedral. Ever since then I have been fascinated with the peregrines and always take a look up to see them whenever I have a chance.
Today I saw a hawk (red tail?) chowing down on a dead squirrel on the Cathedral lawn which led me to a question: do the peregrines and hawks get along? I have actually seen a couple of hawks around campus so I know the two birds must be aware of each other.
The peregrines are indeed aware of the red-tailed hawks and vice versa. Peregrines consider red-tails a threat to their nest so they attack them if they fly anywhere near the nesting zone at the top of the building. In fact, the peregrines enforce a no-fly zone from the 20th floor of the CL downward. The red-tails must stay at or below tree height near the Cathedral of Learning. If they dare to fly higher they are attacked mercilessly. The peregrines always win.
Kate, do you know what happened to Tasha? Thanks for all of your information too!
Tasha was last seen at 10:45am on the day Dori (a.k.a. Mary Cleo from Akron, Ohio) challenged for her territory. That was March 20, 2010. There has been no news of Tasha since then.
A solo female peregrine was seen at the 62nd St Bridge on the Allegheny River in late Spring 2010 but it was never identified — and then it was gone.
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