GSB Peregrine Falcons

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Welcome to the Great Spirit Bluff! We hope you enjoy watching and learning about the falcons with us! Click the livestream to watch and scroll down the page to learn more about the falcons and their surroundings. To help support the project, follow this link: Donate to RRP!

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Meet the Great Spirit Bluff Falcons!

The Great Spirit Bluff peregrine falcons are nesting on a bluff located near La Crescent, MN, overlooking Lock and Dam #7 on the Mississippi River.  We call the unbanded male Newman and the unbanded female Nova. To learn more about the falcons here through the years, scroll down to the ‘nest records’ section.

The peregrines are not present year-round. In general, they return in late February to early March, begin courtship between early and Mid-March, and lay eggs between late March and mid-April. Hatch should begin in early to mid-May, fledge generally occurs 38-40 days after that, and young disperse in late August or mid-September. The adults stay on territory until late fall. While the male and female leave at roughly the same time, they are not believed to migrate together.

Peregrine falcons do not build nests out of sticks. They make scrape nests on ledges, potholes, and crevices on cliffs and buildings. This nest box is filled with pea gravel to provide a substrate that cushions and drains the eggs. We installed it in 2003 at the request of Tom Howe. It became active in 2005 and has been productive ever since.

Peregrine falcons feed primarily on birds that they catch in the air. To learn more about peregrine falcons in general, please follow this link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/id. To catch up on videos of Great Spirit Bluff, please visit our YouTube channel or scroll farther down this page.

Quick facts
Seen/Heard at
Great Spirit Bluff, Decorah North

Diet
Peregrine Falcons feed primarily on other birds they catch in the air. We’ve found the remains of Pie-billed Grebes, Pigeons, American Robins, Blue Jays, Grackles, Cedar Waxwings, Gulls, Yellow-shafted Flickers, Bluejays, Wilson’s Snipe, Mallards, Gulls, Killdeer, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Terns, Soras, Rails, and Baltimore Orioles. In general, the prey remains we find reflect local birds, although peregrines seem to have a preference for large birds, most likely because they provide a larger meal for the amount of effort expended.

Peregrine Falcons have also been documented eating small mammals and carrion. Scavenging is more common in younger birds than older birds, and may be more common in some biomes than others. Kleptoparasitism may also be more common than we know. It has been documented in Spain (Carrion Crows), Russia (Imperial Eagles, Osprey), and the United States (Osprey, unknown bird of prey). In most cases, a Peregrine Falcon attacked another bird that was carrying prey. When the attacked bird dropped it, the Peregrine Falcon recovered it from the air and flew away to eat it elsewhere or bring the stolen prey back to the nest for young. Bob found a fish in a peregrine nest in Minneapolis and we witnessed a female falcon at Great River Energy bring in a 13-lined ground squirrel in 2008. Falcon Michelle brought in little brown bats at Great Spirit Bluff in 2016 and 2017, although they aren’t a common prey item. This video shows her eating a bat before civil sunrise, which indicates she was out hunting before daybreak: https://youtu.be/hblwIr0nuAY.

Nesting
Peregrine Falcons breed from mid-March through early June (although reproductive activities may start in early February). They usually nest on ledges and in potholes, crevices, and nest boxes, although they sometimes choose open gravel-topped roofs and gutters. Males establish territories and court females with display flights and gifts of food. Peregrine nests are often started by males, who use their feet and bodies to scrape shallow depressions in whatever substrate is available, including dirt, sand, pebbles, sawdust, nesting debris, gutter run-off, and gravel. Females assist in later stages of construction by tailoring the scrape to their liking. Peregrine falcons lay two to four eggs per clutch and produce one brood per year. Both parents incubate eggs for 32-36 days and young stay in the nest for 38-41 days. To learn more, visit Cornell’s website.

Although it isn’t common, tree nesting has been documented in peregrine falcons in the United States as recently as 2013. The authors of the short communication Tree-Nesting by Peregrine Falcons in North America: Historical and Additional Records reviewed literature and found 33 North American records of peregrine falcons nesting in trees or snags in Alaska, Kansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia, and British Columbia. You can read more about that here: https://raptorresource.blogspot.com/2017/05/a-peregrine-falcon-at-decorah-north-nest.html.

Citations
Bird Range Maps of North America
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003.
Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA. Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy – Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International – CABS, World Wildlife Fund – US, and Environment Canada – WILDSPACE.
Web Link: http://bit.ly/2ynPQ5I
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/perfal/introduction.
Kleptoparasitism – one of hunting technique of the Peregrine Falcon that became common under condition of the increase in its number in the Southern Ural Mountains, Russia: http://rrrcn.ru/en/archives/19448.
A Peregrine falcon at the Decorah North Nest! https://raptorresource.blogspot.com/2017/05/a-peregrine-falcon-at-decorah-north-nest.html.


General Description
Adult Peregrine Falcons have slate blue upper parts with white barred underparts. They have dark heads, pale cheeks, and a mallar stripe (or mustache) that extends downwards from their eye. Their breasts may be all-white or contain a buff, salmon, or peach color. Juveniles are brown and heavily marked, with vertical streaks instead of horizontal bars on the breast.

Migration
Migratory sighting in Decorah, resident and migratory sightings at Great Spirit Bluff. Peregrine Falcons are partial migrators: some migrate and some do not. Our birds have been reported on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, on beaches in Cancun, and in the forests of Costa Rica. They do not live in the Decorah area as far as we know.

Measurements
Length: 14.2-19.3 in/36-49 cm
Wingspan: 39.4-43.3 in/100-110 cm
Weight: 18.7-56.4 oz/530-1600 g

Wing Design
High Speed Wings. Peregrine falcons are the world’s fastest flyers, and their long, pointed wings reflect their high-speed flight.

News

Click a title to read more

June 14, 2021: A stranger brings dried grass to N2B!

June 14, 2021: Nest news and NestFlix from Decorah North, Decorah, and GSB!

It’s been a very busy few weeks! Since May 20, we’ve banded 73 falcons, cheered DN13’s fledge, said goodbye to the Wisconsin kestrels, treated the lone nestling falcon at GSB for ectoparasites, and watched an unknown young adult eagle check out N2B. Thanks so much for watching, sharing, learning, and caring – and for your patience during our busiest season! We’re wrapping up our sites this week and will be returning to our regular program of video round-ups, eagle travelogues,

June 9, 2021: Zooey sits up high to brood

What’s going on at Great Spirit Bluff?

What’s going on at Great Spirit Bluff? Why isn’t Zooey feeding her young? Why doesn’t Newman taken over? And what’s up with Zooey’s shuffling? We turned to Board member and Gyrfalcon breeder Jim Robison to help answer your questions. Although it isn’t true in every case, first time falcon mothers are more likely to be reticent about feeding, to fumble food, to eat dropped food, and/or to feed inappropriately-sized bites to their hungry young. Zooey stashed and prepared food and

June 1, 2021: A second hatch at GSB!

Two hatches at Great Spirit Bluff, ladder branch exploration at Decorah North!

We have two hatches at Great Spirit Bluff and DN13 and DN14 are getting more adventurous every day! The earliest we’ve ever seen fledge is 70 days (last year, Decorah North) and we are very curious to see what happens this year. While DN13’s exploration of the ladder branch isn’t quite branching, it is definitely a precursor and sign of things to come. Go eagles…but not quite yet! Great Spirit Bluff Falcons June 1, 2021: Another attempt at feeding! https://youtu.be/MGwIfi5kDPo.

April 26, 2021: Nestflix from GSB, Decorah North, and the WI Kestrels

News and NestFlix from Decorah North, Great Spirit Bluff, and the WI Kestrels!

We have your news and Nestflix! DN13 and DN14 are growing by leaps and bounds and gaining new skills as they expand their explorations by walking around the nest, attempting to self-feed, and taking defurring lessons from DNF. I loved all these videos (April 22 was a very big day in the nest!), but don’t miss DN13 walking (albeit a little unsteadily), DNF talking in her sleep (this is beyond cool), and DN14 preening Dad Mr. North. At GSB, Newman

April 15: Mr. North saves the day!

April 16, 2021: NestFlix and news from Decorah North, Great Spirit Bluff, and the Mississippi Flyway!

We have your Friday night/Saturday morning NestFlix! At Decorah North, we have emerging pinfeathers, poop shooting, pellet casting, and Mr. North saving the day! Do not miss the eagles locking talons on the Mississippi Flyway. This is a rare thing to capture on video and shows a rare behavior once thought to be exclusive to courting or mated couples. And congratulations to falcons Newman and Zooey on their first egg at Great Spirit Bluff this year! Happy Fri-yay and super

>> More News
Nest Records

Egg Laying
First egg: April 16, 2021 @ 3:36 PM
Second egg: April 26, 2021 @ 9:13 PM
Third egg: April 29, 2021 @ 4:40 AM

Egg Hatching
Hatch should happen on or around Saturday, May 29.

Banding

Eyasses and Outcomes    >> Detailed Annual Information

 YearMom Dad# of young produced
2020Nova (unbanded)Newman (unbanded)0: one died shortly after
hatch and two were killed
by a GHO
2019Michelle P/87Newman (unbanded)2
2017Michelle P/87Newman (unbanded)2
2016Michelle P/87Newman (unbanded)4
2015Michelle P/87Travis 06/N4
2014Michelle P/87Travis 06/N1
2013Michelle P/87Travis 06/N3
2012Michelle P/87Travis 06/N2
2011Michelle P/87Travis 06/N4
2010UnknownUnknown4
2009UnknownUnknown4
2008Unknown (b/r)Unknown1
2007UnknownUnknown3
2006Katrinka 59/EUnknown3
2005Katrinka 59/EUnknown (b/g)4

As of 2020, 44 young have been produced since 2005, when GSB first became active.

  • In 2020, falcons Floyd and Elise were both killed by a Great Horned Owl.
  • In 2019, one young falcon was killed by an owl and the other was driven out of the nest box by blackflies. Falcon Carson survived to fledge. He was last seen on camera on August 1, 2019.
  • In 2018, two of four eggs hatched. We did not have blackfly problems this year and both falcons survived to fledge at around 40 days of age.
  • In 2017, all four eggs hatched. Two young falcons were killed by black flies on 5/22/17. Survivors Hamilton and Burr-D jumped from the nest on 6/03/17 following a black fly swarm, but survived to fledge.
  • In 2014, just one egg hatched. Male Mac was driven from the nest by blackflies when he was 32 days old. He fledged from the ground after his parents found and cared for him.
  • In 2013, all four young falcons were driven from the nestbox by blackflies when they were around 30 days of age. One was found and fostered to another nest box, two fledged successfully from the ground after their parents found and cared for them, and one disappeared.
  • In 2012, young falcon 87/W (Cassie) disappeared from the nestbox. 86/W (Christine) was found dead at the LaCrosse airport.
  • Falcon Laura, a 2009 hatch, is currently nesting at Red Wing Grain in Red Wing, MN.

Adults

Unbanded female Nova and male Newman (unbanded falcon named by the Howe family) nested at GSB in 2020.

Videos

GSB Video Playlist

Click the icon on the top left of the stream to view a full list of videos from our 2021 playlist, or visit our our YouTube channel.