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 see the bluff perches, click here. To see the nest box perches, click here.

Great Spirit Bluff Cliff CamGreat Spirit Bluff Nest Box CamWatch Both!



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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 Zooey. 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

February 26, 2024: Handsome Mr. North incubating eggs.

February 26, 2024: News, NestFlix, and new cams!

We know it is late February, but it really feels like spring has sprung! We’ve got eagles on eggs at the North nest and our new Trempealeau eagle cam, we’re eagerly awaiting eggs at Xcel Energy’s Fort St. Vrain nest, female falcons are lining up for Newman’s food gifts at GSB, the ice is entirely out on the Flyway, and we’re seeing and hearing spring arrivals everywhere! We’re also getting ready for our First Egg Fundraiser on March 2, chatting

February 19, 2024: DNF rolls her eggs and gently settles over them.

February 20, 2024: NestFlix, News, and What’s Coming Up!

We have a NestFlix Megaroll for everyone tonight, but I wanted to go through our calendar before we get started. Here’s what’s going on! Thank you so much for watching, sharing, learning, and caring! We hope you enjoy the videos as much as did! Decorah North Eagles February 20, 2024: Beautiful view of both eggs at shift change – https://youtu.be/oYdtdkkG10E?si=jzea-s9hoi-eNHs-. We finally got a glimpse of the eggs! They look lovely nestled in their bed of soft golden grass: the

May 10, 2023: Savanna feeds her new hatchlings.

2023 RRP Highlights: Savanna feeds her new hatchlings

We’re continuing our 2023 highlights with a look at Peregrine Falcon Savanna. Savanna, who nested at Great Spirit Bluff with Newman this year, was a 2019 hatch from Bank of the West in Fargo, MN. Savanna was named after Savanna Greywind, a young Native American woman who was murdered in 2017. We were thrilled to see Savanna’s namesake falcon show up at GSB this spring. Falcons instinctively respond to their offspring’s vocalizations and needs, but first-time parents don’t always understand

August 31, 2023: Waterfowl against a full Flyway moon. Full moon counts are still sometimes used to gather data on nocturnal migrants.

On Migration

Keep your eyes on the Flyway! Birdcast predicts a heavy night for September 5th and 6th in the area of the Flyway. Listen for nocturnal migrants at night and look for nocturnal and diurnal migrants resting and feeding during the day.

March 25, 2023: Savanna basks in the sun at Great Spirit Bluff. I love her full crop and beautiful feathers!

2023 Great Spirit Bluff Recap

2023 was a year of cheers and sorrows for the falcons at Great Spirit Bluff. After Newman returned on February 11th, we started to look for Zooey. While she never returned, he attracted a female named Savanna and quickly bonded with her. We saw some competition for the site, but Savanna held on to it and laid her first egg on March 29 at 8:28 PM. Three more eggs followed on April 1st, 3rd, and 5th.

>> More News
Nest Records

GSB Falcons 2024 Nesting Record

Egg Laying
TBD. Falcon Savanna was killed by an owl last year, so we do not have a schedule for GSB.

Egg Hatching
TBD

Fledging
TBD

Eyasses and Outcomes    >> Detailed Annual Information

 Year Mom  Dad # of young produced
2023 Savanna 40/Z Newman (unbanded) Unknown: Savanna laid four eggs. All four hatched and four young fledged. But an owl killed Savanna and at least two of her young. We’re not sure how many survived to dispersal, although we spotted an exploring banded juvenile falcon on a sandbar not far from GSB post-fledge.
2022 Zooey (unbanded, two years old) Newman (unbanded) 0: 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.