Cathedral of Learning falcon again eats one of her young, other chicks doing well
Just when birdwatchers thought it might be a normal breeding season with two apparently healthy chicks at the Cathedral of Learning peregrine falcon nest in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, the mother killed and ate the third chick emerging from its egg Thursday.
It marks the fourth year in a row the female falcon has eaten one of her young.
“Those of us who watch her year after year are sad but not surprised,” wrote Kate St. John of Pittsburgh in her blog, “Outside My Window.” St. John monitors peregrine falcons in the region.
Is the female falcon, known as “Hope,” which previously nested under the Tarentum Bridge, some kind of a psycho bird?
That’s impossible to answer, according to the experts.
St. John has checked and found that, among peregrines, such behavior is a rare occurrence.
“They just don’t do this,” St. John said.
Art McMorris, peregrine coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said it isn’t productive to put “guesses out there” as to what is going on with the cathedral falcons.
“We only have cameras on a tiny minority of nests and, from a very small sample size, we can say this is ‘abnormal,’” he said.
The cathedral falcons are on a live webcam supported by the National Aviary.
Young are killed by their own kind throughout the animal kingdom, McMorris acknowledged.
But applying those incidences and theories to peregrines would not be wise since not enough information exists about this behavior in falcons.
Regardless of Hope’s behavior, she has gone on to raise the rest of her nestlings successfully, he noted.
Aside from Hope eating one of her chicks — two still are alive and there still are two unhatched eggs – it’s shaping up to be another promising breeding season for peregrines statewide.
Because of increasing populations, the game commission downgraded the birds’ state status from “endangered” to “threatened.”
There are two possible new nests in the state this year in addition to the 54 known pairs, which include nine pairs in the Pittsburgh region.
The peregrine falcons nesting under the Tarentum Bridge are incubating eggs, according to McMorris.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .