The young of the once-endangered Peregrine Falcon are showing up in the usual places like the Tarentum Bridge and an unexpected place – the US Steel Clairton Coke Works.
The peregrine falcon was removed from Pennsylvania’s endangered and threatened species list last year. In the 1970s, exposure to pesticides, particularly DDT, caused the near-nationwide extinction of the charismatic raptor, known as the fastest living animal.
The coking plant hawks raise three cubs on a tower in the middle of the plant, said Doug Bergman, director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Bergman said the new nest is in the most industrialized area of the dozen monitored in the region, he said.
“If the habitat is there and the birds are trying to nest, they will find it,” Bergman said. The height of the tower – as well as the abundance of pigeons work for the birds, he said.
The birds are nesting on a ledge about 110ft from a 180ft “quench tower” that cools hot coke with river water, said Clairton Works plant manager Mike Rhoads. The hawks are not exposed to the steam or heat from the tower because their nest is on the side of the tower, he said.
Steelworkers found the nesting birds this spring while working on the tower, Rhoads said.
“Hawks are amazing birds,” he said. “We appreciated the opportunity to observe them in the facility.”
It appears that the once endangered raptors are nesting comfortably at two of the three US Steel Mon Valley Works facilities along the Monongahela River. A pair of bald eagles are in their third year of nesting at the Irvin plant just across from the Clairton plant, which is documented on a live cam.
“The fact that we have two raptors that were on the endangered species list nesting and thriving on US Steel property is incredible,” said Don German, Plant Manager of Irvin Works.
Rhoads said: “We are very pleased that eagles and hawks are now nesting at the Mon Valley Works facility.”
At the bridge of Taranto
Meanwhile, in Taranto, Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning and elsewhere, hawks are living up to their old nesting habits.
There are a dozen known sites where peregrine falcons have nested in the area, mostly on bridges and high-rise buildings, according to gaming commission peregrine monitor Kate St. John, author of the blog. “Outside my window.”
This week, Dave Brooke of Harrison, a volunteer surveyor with the commission, confirmed that three young hawks were walking around their nest box on one of the Tarentum Bridge pillars.
“You can see peregrines all year round at Tarentum Bridge, but you have to be lucky,” Brooke said.
One of the best times to see these dynamic fliers is in early spring, when the young falcons are beginning to take flight and are learning to fly. They often scream for their parents to feed them.
The gaming commission banded the three young falcons in a nest atop the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning on Thursday, according to the St. John’s blog.
The National Aviary offers free live streaming of cathedral pilgrims on its website.