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  • Raptor Monitoring Update for May to June 2019

    The breeding raptor season is in full swing at Pinnacles National Park, with many species finishing up their nesting efforts. Here is an update on raptor activity through May and June.

2019 Climbing Closures & Raptor Update

The breeding raptor season is starting up again at Pinnacles National Park; here is an initial update on raptor activity through February and early March.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) have returned to nesting territories and are actively inspecting potential cliff cavity sites for nesting. Raptor advisories are in effect, and advisory signs are posted at Balconies, Hawkins Peak, and near Little Pinnacles. For current advisories in effect, refer to the PINN raptor advisories page - https://www.nps.gov/pinn/planyourvisit/advisory.htm - and feel free to ask me for further clarifications.

So far in the 2019 season, eight pairs of PRFA and one single PRFA have been confirmed occupying territories, as well as three PEFA pairs. For information on territory locations and rock formations, refer to Brad Young's climber's guidebook to Pinnacles.

PRFA and PEFA breeding efforts for 2019 are listed below:

  • Resurrection Wall: PRFA pair confirmed
  • The Egg (on west side of High Peaks): PRFA pair confirmed
  • South Balconies: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Citadel: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Piedras Bonitas Cliffs: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA pair confirmed
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Drywall Slide: Single PRFA confirmed, pair possible
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks Wall: PEFA pair confirmed
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair confirmed
  • General Balconies: PEFA pair confirmed

So far falcon occupancy has not been checked in the following historical breeding territories:

  • South Chalone Peak
  • Marion Canyon

As noted above, climbing and hiking advisories are in effect for the 2019 season. The official park website reflects current advisories in effect, as do 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 active in the park early this year have included American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, great horned and barn owls, and Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks. A golden eagle pair has been confirmed nesting and beginning to incubate eggs at North Chalone Peak; here is a photo of the pair at the nest site, with the female incubating and the male adding eucalyptus branches to the nest (which serve as "decorations" but also as deterrents to parasites). See gallery below.

And here's a photo of the male eagle adult flying south from the nest after depositing nest material (see gallery below).

Red-shouldered hawks are also vocal and are constructing stick nests in the bottomlands. A red-shouldered hawk pair in the campground is finishing construction of a stick nest high on a valley oak near the visitor center and the overflow parking lot. Here are a couple photos of one of the adults hunting for rodent prey (see gallery below).

This year several people are assisting with raptor monitoring at Pinnacles - Megan Gnekow, Mike Baird, and Joseph Belli. All of them have been volunteering with the condor and / or raptor monitoring programs for years, and their assistance in confirming raptor status at the park this year is greatly 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.

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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