Pitt Peregrine Falcon

Update 07/21/2015:

We are saddened that, despite excellent health care and many heartfelt well wishes, the Peregrine Falcon chick from the Cathedral of Learning has died. For more details about the chick’s passing, please visit "Outside My Window," Kate St. John's Bird Blog.

It’s a privilege be able to provide a window into the wild Peregrine Falcons’ world through nest cams. These occasions are educational and fun, though sometimes difficult to watch. We look forward to next year’s nesting season and hope for the best for all of Pittsburgh’s Peregrine Falcons.  

Update 6/25/2015:

On Wednesday, June 24 the Pitt Peregrine Falcon chick fledged for a second time. Like its previous attempt, the bird landed on the ground near the Cathedral of Learning. Pennsylvania Game Commission officers retrieved and thoroughly examined the fledgling.  The officers concluded the young bird’s right wing showed signs of a feather injury. Based on this injury, the PA Game Commission moved the fledgling to a rehabilitation center for birds of prey.

Update 6/23/2015:

The Pitt Peregrine chick was 42 days old on Sunday, which is the age by which Peregrines normally fledge.  The chick celebrated by taking off from its lofty nest 39 floors up on the Cathedral of Learning.  Its first flight was not witnessed by anybody, but the chick was later noticed sitting on the lawn in front of Heinz Chapel, where, for a time, a Red-tailed Hawk seemed to be keeping it company!  The chick later made its way up the steps of Heinz Chapel where it was watched over by a University of Pittsburgh police officer until the Pennsylvania Game Commission arrived.  Although the chick was technically old enough to fledge, given its earlier developmental setbacks, the Game Commission decided to return it to the nest box.  And that is where it is today, but it has once again moved off-camera, suggesting that this little Peregrine chick might be getting ready to try out its wings again soon!

Update 6/17/2015:

The Pitt Peregrine Falcon chick is 38 days old today!  Fledging usually occurs between 35-42 days, so we expect the chick will fledge any day now.  It has been exercising its wings in the nest frequently, and it has begun to sit up on the same perch used by the parents when they come to the nest.  Because the Pitt nest is at a very high altitude there is less concern that the young bird will end up on the ground when it fledges, as has been seen recently with the downtown birds.  More likely it will fly a short distance and perch nearby on a building, perhaps even elsewhere on the Cathedral of Learning.  It will continue to beg noisily for food from the adults, and little by little will perfect its flying skills. It will remain in the area for the rest of the summer.

Update 5/29/2015:

Friday, May 29, the Pitt Peregrine Falcon chick received a medical exam by Pennsylvania Game Commission representatives. 19 days old and weighing over one pound, the chick appeared to be behind in its development, but otherwise healthy.

A Game Commission representative checked the chick’s beak, ears, eyes, wings, legs and feathers for any problems, parasites or diseases. Besides feather mites and lice, which are normal in any nestling bird, the chick appeared to be free of any diseases. As is typical for medical exams, a blood sample was taken for further testing; results take about 10 days. A veterinarian at the University of Pittsburgh further examined the chick by listening to its lungs and heart and feeling its fluffy body for any abnormalities. Both the Game Commission representative and veterinarian agreed the chick seemed to be in good health, but developmentally behind most 19 day old Peregrine Falcon chicks.

Over the previous week the chick worried nest cam viewers by seeming unable to turn itself over after falling onto its back. During the exam the chick was able to right itself when the veterinarian put it on its back. The chick’s talons, though weaker than expected likely due to the developmental delays witnessed, also appeared to be healthy and normal, alleviating fears the chick would be unable to perch or stand on its own.

Because the chick is not growing according to the normal developmental growth curve for Peregrines, its sex could not be determined. The Game Commission representative placed a larger, female-sized leg band on the bird.

Based on the exam, the Pennsylvania Game Commission decided to return the chick to the nest and continue to monitor its progress via the National Aviary’s nest cam.  Should any problems appear in the ensuing days and weeks, appropriate steps will be taken according to the best interests of the bird.

Because the chick's developmental abnormalities are less of a concern at this point, the National Aviary has reinstated streaming the cam. Check back here for updates on the chick's progress. 

Update 5/27/2015:

We have been receiving questions about the chick and what happens next. Here are answers to  the most common questions.

Is something wrong with the chick?
Yes; it appears that the chick has a genetic or developmental abnormality of some kind and it is possible this chick will not survive to fledging. The behavior it is exhibiting is not normal. The parents are doing a good job of caring for the chick as of Wednesday 5/27/15.

Can anyone help the chick?
At its young age, the best place for the chick to be is with its parents. They are doing a good job taking care of it to this point on Wednesday 5/27/15. If the chick has a genetic or developmental abnormality, there may not be anything anyone can do. When the chick receives its routine medical exam, if an intervention will help the situation, then officials from the Pennsylvania Game Commission may act accordingly. Meanwhile, we and other officials will continue to monitor the nest and the chick’s progress.

Can the National Aviary step in?
No unauthorized person or organization, including the National Aviary, is permitted to interfere in any way with the nesting attempt of a state-listed and federally protected species. 

Why do you have a nest cam? Why keep it up? Why shut it off?
What we are witnessing is a window into nature, and while the occurrences can be difficult to watch, they reflect the types of things that can, and do, happen in nature. It is thrilling to watch healthy birds thrive and heart-breaking to watch an ill chick deteriorate.  We are saddened that the outcome doesn’t appear to be a good one in this case.

Though professional detachment from this wild falcon nest is possible for some, because of the graphic nature of the current situation, the likelihood of an increasingly unpleasant scenario, and the variety of people (including young children) who visit this page of our site, the National Aviary has chosen not to live stream the cam at this time. We will continue to provide updates and will alert visitors to any significant changes.

More History on this Pair of Peregrine Falcons and their Chick:
This peregrine chick hatched on May 10. Early on, the chick began exhibiting uncoordinated, atypical behaviors.  The female parent, named Dorothy, is among the very oldest Peregrine Falcon females ever to breed.  Only two or three other Peregrines that we know of have attempted to breed at the age that Dorothy is now. Similar to what can happen in humans, her fertility has declined at the same time that the chances for genetic defects in her offspring have increased. Last year she laid a single egg that did not hatch. And the year before that, she laid five eggs but only two hatched, and one was developmentally abnormal and died within a few days of hatching. But, she is an experienced parent that has had many successful years nesting at atop the Cathedral of Learning. Since 2002, she has produced more than 40 young and successfully raised them to fledging.

Update 5/26/15:

The Peregrine Falcon Chick at the Catheldral of Learning appears to not be doing well. Cam viewing on our site has been temporarily suspended while we assess the situation. Viewers may continue to view the progress via still images using the "Alternative Nest View" link below.

In 2014 The National Aviary installed a new high definition camera at this nest site!

Along with its partners, the National Aviary is proud to support the installation and operation of the Peregrine Falcon nest cam at the Cathedral of Learning on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  Although usually exciting and enjoyable to watch, the images that appear and the events that occur at a wild Peregrine Falcon nest can sometimes be unpleasant and graphic.  The cam is a window on nature, and the National Aviary is not permitted to interfere in any way with the nesting attempt of this protected species, regardless of how unfortunate the occurrences revealed by the camera may seem to us to be.  The falcons are wild birds and their behaviors reflect what happens in nature. Some of their actions may be unpleasant to watch and it is possible that some of the fledglings may not survive into adulthood.

History of Peregrine Falcons at the Cathedral of Learning

Peregrines have nested at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning for 12 years.  Dorothy began nesting here in 2002 with her first mate, Erie. Her current mate, E2, arrived in the fall of 2007 when Erie disappeared. Dorothy fledged 22 chicks in seven years with Erie and 20 chicks since 2008 with E2.

For recent news and views about Pittsburgh's peregrines, visit "Outside My Window," Kate St. John's Bird Blog.  

Many thanks to our partners:  University of Pittsburgh, WildEarth, PixController, Inc., and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Alternate Nest View

Click on the picture below for an image that refreshes automatically every 15 seconds.

Peregrine Nest, University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning

Click here for archived videos from this nest cam: