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

March 3, 2021: DNF rolls her eggs

March 4, 2021: Midnight Movies!

Put your feet up and get ready for tonight’s midnight movie madness! While the Decorah North eagles incubated their two eggs in peaceful splendor (countdown: 24 days), Decorah and Great Spirit Bluff kept us all on the Tilt-o-Whirl! Will a new eagle couple take over N2B? Is Mom warning them away? Who was that banded female falcon at Great Spirit Bluff? Grab your drinks and snacks and get ready for nestflix, information, and a little #musing as we review a

February 27, 2021: A stunning look at Mr. North! We can see every detail of his face: the nictitating eyelid sweeping in from the side, his yellow cere and large oval nostrils, the edges and curved tip of his beak, the rimal feathers that line his eyes, and the rictal feathers around his 'beak lips'.

March 2nd, 2021: Spring Nestflix!

Spring is coming and birds are busy at (almost) all of our nests. At Decorah North, DNF wing-whacks a mouse and enjoys lunch, while Mr. North sounds the alarm over an intruder. We have stunning close-ups of both eagles, but we can’t quite get a peek at their egg! Love is in the air at GSB as an unknown female falcon courts Newman and Newman courts mate Nova. He didn’t quite sweet-talk her into their nest box, but it wasn’t

February 24, 2021: Newman seems very confident back on the scene at Great Spirit Bluff. We have heard him enforcing his No-Fly zone already!

Newman and Nova are back at Great Spirit Bluff!

By RRP Director John Howe Peregrine Falcons Newman and Nova are back at Great Spirit Bluff! On February 24th, we saw (and heard) male Newman reclaiming his territory and favorite spots, protecting his No-Fly Zone from local eagles, turkey vultures, and owls. Mate Nova joined him on February 25th. What about the owls? We have been testing audio and visual owl deterrents by shining a light at favorite perching spots and broadcasting the sound of barking dogs. Our deterrents appear

January 20, 2021: Resident eagles at Great Spirit Bluff

January 22, 2021: A Raptor Movie Marathon from Decorah North, Decorah, and GSB

Happy, happy Fri-yay, everyone! The sun is setting and I’m kicking off my Friday raptor movie marathon with a great big bowl of popcorn! As usual, Mom and DM2 continue to tease us with little visits to N2B…not enough for serious nestoration, but just enough to keep us hoping they come back! Mr. North and DNF are very busy working on their 2021 addition, while eagles are stacking up at Great Spirit Bluff, which has just the right amount of

A bird's talon-locking mechanism

Racheting Raptor Toes: An upside-down eagle at Great Spirit Bluff

An eagle locked on to a branch and flipped upside down at Great Spirit Bluff on Thursday. It hung there for roughly 32 seconds, looking at its perch mates and flapping its wings every few seconds, seemingly unable to let go of the branch it had fastened on. So what was going on? Flexor Tendons and Grip Let’s start by talking about tendons: the tough tissue that connects muscle to bone. Our human flexor tendons run from our forearms to

>> More News
Nest Records

Egg Laying
Nova laid 2020’s first egg on March 26 @ 8:19 AM CDT

Egg Hatching
The first egg hatched on May 7 @ 11:07 PM CDT

Banding
Two falcons hatched in 2020. Both were killed by Great Horned Owls. We took steps to discourage them. You can read more about that here: https://www.raptorresource.org/2021/02/25/newman-and-nova-are-back-at-great-spirit-bluff/

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.