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Raptor Monitoring Update for July 2015

Hey Everyone -

Here is a final update on raptor activity at Pinnacles National Park as the breeding season comes to a close.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) have raised and fledged young from successful nests. Prairie falcon productivity was lower in 2015 compared to 29-year averages, but overall falcon productivity was supplemented by successful nest efforts of two peregrine falcon nests that produced fledglings.

In total, the following were documented for 2015:

  • 11 territories with PRFA pairs
  • 3 territories with PEFA pairs.

These are listed below:

  • Goat Rock / Resurrection Wall: PRFA nest, fledged 5 young
  • Teapot Dome / Tunnel / Egg: PRFA nest, fledged 5 young
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA nest, fledged 2 young
  • General Balconies: PEFA nest, fledged 4 young
  • South Balconies: PRFA nest, fledged 2 young
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA nest, fledged 4 young
  • Machete / Citadel: PRFA pair, non-nesting
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks: PRFA pair, non-nesting
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA nest, failed nest
  • Drywall Slide: PRFA pair abandoned area, PEFA pair seen hunting in area
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, fledged 3 young
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, failed nest
  • NE Section 15: PRFA nest, failed nest

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

  • Pig Canyon
  • 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

As noted above, PRFA productivity this season was lower than the 29-year averages for the raptor monitoring program. Eight PRFA pairs attempted to nest, and 5 nests successfully fledged 19 young, compared to 29-year averages of 11.9 nesting pairs, 10.0 successful nests, and 27.3 fledglings. Exact causes of the lower productivity this season are unknown, but likely factors include nest predation and lower prey availability due to the ongoing drought conditions. The two peregrine falcon nests together fledged a total of 6 fledglings, our highest annual fledge count for PEFA since breeding pairs returned to the park in 2004.

Please note that all climbing and hiking advisories have been lifted as of July 4th. Climbers and hikers generally did an excellent job of adhering to advisories and allowing falcons to nest in chosen territories throughout the park. I definitely appreciate the support!

In addition to PRFA and PEFA, twenty other raptor nests were confirmed this year. These included:

  • 7 red-tailed hawk nests
  • 3 red-shouldered hawk nests
  • 4 American kestrel nests
  • 2 Cooper's hawk nests.

A highlight for 2015 was the documentation of 4 long-eared owl nests, the highest number of nests recorded for this species of concern in a single year.

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.

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

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