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End-Of-Season Raptor Update

Hey Everyone -

The breeding raptor season is coming to an end at Pinnacles National Park; here is a final update on raptor productivity at the park.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) finished nesting efforts by late June and early July, and raptor advisories have been lifted for the remainder of the year. However, note that mandatory closures remain in effect for the the south and east sides of Machete Ridge.

For the 2018 season, ten nesting pairs of PRFA were confirmed. Four PRFA nests failed (likely due to predation), and the other six PRFA nests successfully fledged a total of 22 young. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, "fledging" refers to young birds successfully flying from nest sites.) Two PEFA pairs at Hawkins Peak and General Balconies successfully nested and fledged four young. For information on territory locations and rock formations, refer to Brad Young's climber's guidebook to Pinnacles.

PRFA and PEFA breeding efforts for 2018 are listed below:

  • Resurrection Wall: PRFA pair confirmed, nest effort failed
  • The Egg: (on west side of High Peaks): PRFA pair confirmed, 2 young fledged successfully
  • South Balconies: PRFA pair confirmed, nest effort failed
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA pair confirmed, nest effort failed
  • Citadel: PRFA pair confirmed, 4 young fledged successfully
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks Wall: PRFA pair confirmed, nest effort failed
  • Piedras Bonitas Cliffs: PRFA pair confirmed, 4 young fledged successfully
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA pair confirmed, 3 young fledged successfully
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA pair confirmed, 5 young fledged successfully
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA pair confirmed, 4 young fledged successfully
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair confirmed, 3 young fledged successfully
  • General Balconies: PEFA pair confirmed, 1 young fledged successfully

The number of nesting PRFA pairs and successfully fledged young for 2018 were consistent with the 30-year average for the park.

Check out the photos in the Photo Gallery at the end of this post.

As noted above, climbing and hiking advisories have been lifted for the rest of 2018, but mandatory closures remain in effect. The official park website has been updated to reflect this, as have the Friends of Pinnacles and Mud 'n Crud websites. Let me know if you have further questions.

In addition to PRFA and PEFA, other raptor species were also successful in nesting and producing fledglings at the park this year. Nesting efforts for red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks. American kestrels, large owl species, and Cooper's hawks were confirmed this year. As many of you will recall, one of the great horned owl nests this season included a very unusual attempt by the adults to raise a young red-shouldered or red-tailed hawk. Sadly, this nest attempt failed when the nest tree feel over.

Other raptor nest attempts were more successful, with nesting long-eared, barn, and great horned owls successfully fledging young. Here is a photo of a barn owl nest with four young, all of which were later confirmed successfully flying from the nest site (see gallery below).

Four long-eared owl nests were confirmed at Pinnacles this year. Here are photos of a fledgling from a nest along the Bench Trail, and an adult watching intently in the area as well (see gallery below).

Six Cooper's hawk nests were also confirmed this year, a record for a single season at the park. Here is an adult female Cooper's hawk perched near a nest effort along the North Wilderness Trail (see gallery below).

Many of you have also noticed the Cooper's hawks near the Bear Gulch offices. A nesting pair successfully fledged 3 Cooper's hawk young, and these juveniles have remained in the area, often perching quite close to the offices and beg-calling for food from the parents. Here are photos of two of the fledglings from the Bear Gulch nest effort (see gallery below).

A big thanks to Kimber Godfrey and Megan Gnekow for their excellent raptor observations this year. Both Kimber and Megan contributed a substantial amount of information to raptor monitoring and their efforts are much appreciated!

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 or other observations, I would greatly appreciate it if you please fill out a wildlife observation card, and give it to me or deposit it in my box in the RRM Office.

As a final acknowledgement, I should note that climbers and off-trail hikers did an excellent job of respecting advisories and acting as good stewards of the park. Thanks to our visitors and their willingness to take responsibility for protecting the park resources!

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

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