GSB Peregrine Falcons

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Welcome to the Great Spirit Bluff Peregrine Falcons! 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

July 29, 2022: HD and HM on the Y-Branch.

NestFlix and news from the North Nest, the Decorah Trout Hatchery, and Great Spirit Bluff!

Today DN15 and DN16 turn 129 and 128 days old. Last year, none of our camera operators reported seeing DN13 or DN14 at the North nest last year after August 14th. That got me curious, since we know the eaglets are beginning to wander prior to dispersal. I took a look at each year’s August map in two sections: one from August 1 through August 15, and one from August 16 through August 31. While most of our eaglets didn’t

June 15, 2022: A falcon below the bluff at Great Spirit Bluff

Great Spirit Bluff: What’s going on and why don’t we remove the nest box?

After three young falcons jumped out of the box at GSB yesterday, some followers are asking us to remove the nest box entirely. But based on our history, removing the box would make the site even more likely to fail. Here’s an explanation of Great Spirit Bluff’s successes, failures, and why we installed the nest box to begin with. Ledges, Raccoons, and Nest Boxes Back in 2003, RRP founder Bob Anderson was trying to figure out why a large cliff

June 14, 2022: Falcon falls from Great Spirit Bluff

June 14, 2022: Fall at Great Spirit Bluff

The falcons at Great Spirit Bluff have jumped out of the box. We originally thought that we were seeing some exploratory behavior, but it looks like the blackflies drove the youngest falcon out before the older two. We’ve been asked if we plan to go down and rescue them. For now, we’re leaving them alone. It is our experience that falcon parents will take care of their young by flying into the understory to find, feed, and defend them. We

May 12, 2022: Newman meets his hatchlings

Hatch at Great Spirit Bluff!

And then there were two! We have two peregrine falcon hatchlings at Great Spirit Bluff this morning and a third egg appears to be starting! Hatch number one happened at around 11:00 PM CT and hatch number two happened this morning at 6:06 AM CT. Congratulations to Newman and Zooey on another year at Great Spirit Bluff! 🎉🐣 Videos May 12, 2022: Second egg hatched and Newman meets them: https://youtu.be/3y44fxG5Zqw May 11, 2022: Eyass #1 hatched: https://youtu.be/9vjsT7R7vW4 Live stream https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/gsb-falcons/

May 9, 2022: Peregrine Falcon hatchlings at Xcel Energy's High Bridge plant in St. Paul, MN

Hatch has started at our Peregrine Falcon nests!

Hatch has started at our peregrine falcon nests! We have three hatchlings at Xcel Energy’s High Bridge plant in St. Paul, MN; four hatchlings at Dairyland Power’s Alma facility in Alma, WI; and four hatchlings at Great River Energy’s Elk River plant in Elk River, MN. Watch for hatch this week at: Minnesota Power Hibbard (estimated hatch date: Monday, May 10) Great Spirit Bluff (estimated hatch date: Tuesday, May 10) You can watch Great Spirit Bluff here: https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/gsb-falcons/ or here:

>> More News
Nest Records

Egg Laying
Egg #1: Zooey laid egg #1 on April 3 @ 12:31 AM
Egg #2: Egg #2 was first seen on the morning of April 5
Egg #3: Zooey laid egg #3 on April 7 @ 10:50 AM
Egg #4: Zooey laid egg #4 on April 9 @ 8:11 PM

Egg Hatching
Hatch #1: May 11, 2022 @ 11:00 PM
Hatch #2: May 12, 2022 @ 6:06 AM
Hatch #3: May 13, 2022 @ 8:58 PM
Last year, Zooey didn’t lay her first egg until April 16, and laid her second egg 10 days later than her first. She advanced egg-laying up by 13 days this year and laid all of her eggs roughly two days apart. She did a much better job feeding her young this year. 

Fledging
Black flies and heat drove the young falcons from the nest on June 14, 2022. One was seen and at least two were heard below the bluff on June 15, but we have not heard or seen them since.

Eyasses and Outcomes    >> Detailed Annual Information

 Year Mom  Dad # of young produced
2022 Zooey (unbanded, two years old) Newman (unbanded) Complicated. Zooey laid four eggs and three hatched. She did a much better job feeding, but heat and blackflies drove young from the box on June 14. One was seen and at least two were heard below the bluff on June 15, but we have not heard or seen them since.
2021 Zooey (unbanded, two years old) Newman (unbanded) 1: Zooey laid three eggs and all three hatched, but she didn’t understand how to feed and the first two hatchlings died
2020 Nova (unbanded) Newman (unbanded) 0: one died shortly after
hatch and two were killed
by a GHO
2019 Michelle P/87 Newman (unbanded) 2
2017 Michelle P/87 Newman (unbanded) 2
2016 Michelle P/87 Newman (unbanded) 4
2015 Michelle P/87 Travis 06/N 4
2014 Michelle P/87 Travis 06/N 1
2013 Michelle P/87 Travis 06/N 3
2012 Michelle P/87 Travis 06/N 2
2011 Michelle P/87 Travis 06/N 4
2010 Unknown Unknown 4
2009 Unknown Unknown 4
2008 Unknown (b/r) Unknown 1
2007 Unknown Unknown 3
2006 Katrinka 59/E Unknown 3
2005 Katrinka 59/E Unknown (b/g) 4
Great Spirit Bluff Falcons Video Library

Great Spirit Bluff Falcons Video Library

Click the hamburger icon on the top right of the video below to view a full list of videos from our most recent playlist, or visit our Great Spirit Bluff video library page here: https://www.youtube.com/c/RaptorResourceProject.