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  • Raptor Closures Update - July, 2021

    The breeding raptor season is finally wrapping up at Pinnacles National Park and I wanted to provide a final update for 2021. All Raprot closures have been lifted.

Raptor Monitoring / Climbing Advisories Update

Hey Everyone -

Here is an update on raptor activity at Pinnacles National Park for the 5 weeks.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) have established territories and are engaging in courtship displays and site preparations for nesting. Two peregrine falcon (PEFA) pairs – one that nested last year for the tenth consecutive year at Hawkins and another that nested at Balconies for the first time in 50 years – wintered at the park. The peregrine falcon pairs have both been observed in the Hawkins and Balconies areas respectively, calling to each other, engaging in courtship displays, defending the territories by chasing other birds (condors, hawks, and ravens) out of the areas, and inspecting potential nest sites. A third PEFA pair was briefly observed at Drywall Slide in January has not been seen again, and a PRFA pair is now occupying the Drywall territory.

At present the following have been documented: 7 territories with PRFA pairs, 3 more territories with single prairie falcons, and the 2 PEFA territories. These are listed below:

  • Goat Rock / Resurrection Wall: PRFA pair
  • Teapot Dome / Tunnel / Egg: PRFA pair
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair
  • General Balconies: PEFA pair
  • South Balconies: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA pair
  • Machete / Citadel: PRFA pair
  • Willow Spring Slide: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Drywall Slide: PRFA pair
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA pair
  • South Chalone Peak: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • NE Section 15: PRFA pair

The following territories are currently unoccupied, with no prairie falcons observed within them:

  • Pig Canyon
  • Little Pinnacles (Yaks)
  • North Balconies
  • Scout Peak
  • Western Front
  • Discovery Wall
  • Pipsqueak Pinnacles
  • Frog / Hand
  • Piedras Bonitas / Gargoyle / Prescribed Burn Cliffs
  • Tugboat
  • D. Soto Canyon
  • Guard Rock
  • Rocks West of Chalone Housing
  • Mating Rocks / Tugboat
  • North Wilderness Rock
  • South Wilderness Rock

In general, PRFA activity this season seems to be proceeding normally in regards to annual occupancy and courtship schedules. Some of the unoccupied territories listed above may have active falcon pairs that arrive later in the season by late March or early April. The territorial PEFA pair at Balconies is also occupying the Machete territory, and advisories are in effect to include the upper southwest face of Machete as a partial advisory area for the season.

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories are in effect as of January 20th. Raptor advisory signs have been placed at Hawkins, Scout, Balconies, and Little Pinnacles, to protect these sensitive species from the pressures of off-trail hiking and climbing during the upcoming nesting season. Updated raptor advisory brochures / handouts are available at the east side Pinnacles Visitor Center and the west side Visitor Contact Station. Any assistance park staff can provide in diverting visitors from advisory areas, and reporting incidents of climbers and hikers in advisory areas to law enforcement staff, is highly appreciated!

Golden eagles have also been seen regularly in and near the park over the past month. No nesting activity has been confirmed yet.

Other raptors observed in the park in February and early March include American kestrels, and red-shouldered hawks have been seen in the Pinnacles Campground, in McCabe Canyon, and along the fire road near the Bench Trail junction, perching in valley oaks, vocalizing, and beginning to add stick material to nest constructs. Red-tailed hawk pairs are actively courting and preparing nests in Rose Canyon, near the Butterfield Barn, in Pig Canyon, Crowley Drainage, and near Frog and Hand. Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are active throughout the park along riparian corridors. Great-horned owls have been heard vocalizing in Condor Gulch, Bear Gulch, the Pinnacles Campground, Pig Canyon, near Scout Peak, and near Machete Ridge. Long-eared owls have been observed at the north extent of the North Wilderness Trail.

Thank you to all the staff who have continued to provide me with raptor observations; every detail on raptor behavior helps to provide a more complete picture of raptor breeding at the park. If anyone on staff wishes to report raptor observations, I would greatly appreciate it if you please fill out a wildlife observation card, and deposit it in my box in the RRM Office. Also note that Joseph Belli and Aly Schmidt will be part of the raptor monitoring team for 2015 and will be assisting with surveys. If you can't get a hold of me for questions, feel free to ask or pass along observations to them as well.

In addition, thanks to Mike Shelley, James Bouknight, Matt McCarthy, Jack Peabody, Paul Johnson, Sierra Willoughby, Linda Regan, Dan Ryan, Jennie Jones, Brent Johnson, Arianna Punzalan, and Alacia Welch for raptor observations. I appreciate the support!

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please contact me through email or extension 276. Thanks!

GAVIN EMMONS * Raptor / Condor Biologist *
5000 Highway 146, Paicines, CA 95043 * 831-389-4486 x276 *
Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles News

  • Raptor Closures Update - July, 2021

    The breeding raptor season is finally wrapping up at Pinnacles National Park and I wanted to provide a final update for 2021. All Raprot closures have been lifted.

    <read more>

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