Peregrine Fight at the Nest, 18 March 2007

On 18 March 2007 the resident male peregrine, Erie, was challenged by another male. The two of them fought to the death at the Cathedral of Learning nest. Erie won.

Back in 2007 the falconcam was only capable of snapshots and none were archived. I was lucky to tune into the camera during the fight and capture the snapshots assembled in the slideshow above.

What you are seeing in the snapshots:

  • The scene opens in the middle of the fight. The male peregrines have locked talons (they can’t get away from each other) and they are trying to peck at each other’s throats and breasts to wound and kill. The intruder, Pulse, is on the left. Erie is on the right.
  • Erie appears to be losing at first, he has leaned so far away from Pulse that his back is nearly on the gravel.
  • A third peregrine, the resident female Dorothy, appears on the scene. The rule in peregrine fighting is that males fight with males, females fight with females, the opposite sex does not join the fight. Erie has been Dorothy’s mate for seven years and she knows that if Erie dies her new mate will be Pulse. She is very invested in the fight and its outcome.
  • Erie and Pulse continue to fight, Dorothy leaves and returns.
  • Eventually Dorothy walks around the fight, between the nestbox back wall and the battling peregrines. At that point, Erie gains the advantage and throws Pulse down on the gravel. You can see blood on Pulse’s neck.
  • Erie lunges at Pulse’s throat. They fall off the nest into the gully.
  • Dorothy looks into the gully where they’ve disappeared from view.

Erie won the battle that day but we had no idea what happened to his rival.

In July 2007 the nestbox was removed so that area could be power-washed during the Cathedral of Learning exterior cleaning project. During the removal we found Pulse’s dead body under the nest. He was named Pulse when he was banded at a nest in Cleveland.

(photos from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh, March 2007)