Peregrine Falcon Cam
Each spring and summer, the National Aviary sponsors a live stream of the Peregrine Falcons residing high up on the south side of the Cathedral of Learning on the main campus of the University of Pittsburgh. From there the falcons can access Schenley Park and Monongahela River to the south.
The 2020 Nesting Season
The 2020 nesting season was dramatic, with a new female, Morela, taking ownership of the nesting ledge, and two males competing for her attention. The competition carried on well into the nesting season, and Morela laid two eggs late in the season. It is unclear who the father of the eggs was: Terzo, a returning male, or Ecco, a new arrival on the scene. Peregrine Falcon females rely on males to share in the incubation and raising of their young, and the attention of both males was divided. Morela’s eggs did not hatch.
The History of Peregrines at Pitt
The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh has hosted a pair of Peregrine Falcons since 2002, when “Dorothy” began nesting here with a tiercel (male falcon) named “Erie.” In the fall of 2007, after Erie disappeared, another male (“Erie II”, or “E2”) showed up. Dorothy fledged a total of 22 chicks in seven years with Erie and another 20 chicks with E2. Her last nesting attempt, in 2015 at age 17, which is very old for a Peregrine Falcon, was unsuccessful. In November 2015 a new female, “Hope,” appeared at the nest box with E2.
Hope’s arrival at the Cathedral of Learning followed several years of trying unsuccessfully to nest at the Tarentum Bridge (about 12 miles away as the falcon flies). Hope’s initial mate at the Cathedral was E2, succeeded by “Terzo” when E2 died in March 2016.
Hope nested at the Cathedral of Learning for four seasons, 2016 through 2019, during which time she exhibited very abnormal behavior. She displayed aggression toward her chicks, and out of 16 hatched eggs, only 8 lived to fledge. We, and the experts we have consulted, have no explanation for Hope’s highly unusual behavior.
In September 2019, a new unbanded female peregrine arrived at the Cathedral of Learning. By the end of October this new female was firmly established and courting at the nest with Terzo and, at times, with an unbanded male dubbed “Ecco.” Because she’s unbanded, we don’t know where the new female came from. The distinctive apricot-colored wash on her chest and face makes her recognizable on camera.
For up-to-date news and views about all of Pittsburgh’s Peregrine Falcons, visit “Outside My Window”, Kate St. John’s bird blog.
Many thanks to our partners: University of Pittsburgh, M&P Security Solutions, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
More About Peregrine Falcons
Peregrine Falcons are the world’s fastest animal, clocking in at speeds of over 200 miles per hour! These fierce birds of prey grow quickly, too. Peregrine Falcons lay a group of 2 to 5 eggs (a group of eggs is called a “clutch”), and are well known for using the ledges of tall buildings (like University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning) for their nesting sites.
The female Peregrine will incubate the eggs for about a month, sitting on them to keep them warm, and when the chicks hatch they are small, nearly featherless, and very dependent on their parents. But they mature very quickly, and within a week of hatching they nearly double their size! Within a month, they go from having soft, downy white feathers to dark brown feathers, or plumage. By around 5 weeks old, they are ready to fledge the nest!
Peregrine Falcons stay with their parents through the summer, learning to hunt and navigate their world. The next time you are out on a walk, look for Peregrine Falcons on the ledges of tall buildings or under the bridges along Pittsburgh’s three rivers!