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

January 21,2022: Mr. North gleams in the bright winter sunlight

Nestflix: Videos and news from Decorah, Decorah North, the Flyway, and GSB!

Grab something warm, wrap yourself in a blanket, and get ready for some wonderful videos from Decorah North, Decorah, and the Mississippi Flyway. I love all of these videos, but don’t miss the North fish chase, the beautiful subadult eagle, or the stunning video of Mr. North! We’re still seeing short-eared owls on the Flyway and I hope to write a little bit more about them tomorrow. Eagles and falcons and owls, oh my! Decorah North January 24, 2022: Mr.

January 22: Unknown falcon at Great Spirit Bluff

Falcons at Great Spirit Bluff: reading and reporting peregrine falcon band numbers

We saw two falcons at Great Spirit Bluff over the weekend: an unbanded female and a banded black/red male. We don’t know who they were, although the black/red male wasn’t Newman. Did they originate north of Great Spirit Bluff or wander up from La Crosse, a little over five miles downstream? Without band numbers, we can’t know for sure, but eBird can help us explore wintering peregrines in La Crosse! Ebird Reports Between 2002 and 2021, bird watchers reported fifteen

Amhran 92/X, a 2018 hatch from Skidmore Bluff in Hagar, Wisconsin. Newman invited her into his nest box, offered her a food gift, and tried to copulate with her.

Memory Lane 2021: The Bachelor, Great Spirit Bluff edition

We’re used to a little falcon flirting. Despite the species’ reputation for monogamy, we’ve seen and heard males display, chup at, and solicit passing females before their mates show up to chase off interlopers. But Newman was in a league of his own this year as falcon after falcon showed up to flirt and accept his food gifts. While he wasn’t really a bachelor, he seemed to enjoy the attention. Picture dead birds instead of roses, bare-knuckle brawling in place

John Howe and friend on Xcel Energy's Monticello stack in Monticello, MN.

#GivingTuesday: 2021 Budget

To help kick-off Giving Tuesday on Tuesday, November 30, we wanted to talk about what we did this year. Here are the things that your donations got done. Please donate to the Raptor Resource Project to help us continue our work in 2021 and beyond! New Projects Despite the ongoing disruption of Covid-19, we added streams at Red Wing Grain and US Bank, got the Eagle Valley camera online, improved our streaming and recording capabilities, built a new starter nest

November 18, 2021: Eagles on the Flyway. It is a great time to watch them - we are seeing so many eagles and swans right now!

Your Friday night nestflix: Decorah North, Decorah, the Flyway, and GSB!

Happy Fri-yay, everyone! Grab your snacks and drinks and get ready for the weekend with our Friday night raptor mega-roll. At Decorah North, DNF and Mr. North respond to an influx of visitors and work on this year’s penthouse addition, while white-footed mice throw a rocking harvest party in the after-dark nest! In Decorah, Mom keeps us crossing our talons with repeated sightings in and around the hatchery. C’mon Mom and DM2 – N2B and the new starter nest at

>> More News
Nest Records

Egg Laying
In 2021, Zooey laid her first egg on April 16

Egg Hatching
In 2021, Zooey’s first egg hatched on May 31

Peregrine falcon Zooey was a first time mother. While she seemed to understand the importance of feeding her young, she didn’t understand how to do it. The first two hatchlings died on June 2nd. The third survived until fledge.

Banding: June 19, 2021
Chance | F | 1947-50644 | P/46

Fledging
July 19, 2021 @ 8:23 AM CDT

Eyasses and Outcomes    >> Detailed Annual Information

 Year Mom  Dad # of young produced
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

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.