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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 Closures Update - July, 2021

Hey Everyone -

The breeding raptor season is finally wrapping up at Pinnacles National Park and I wanted to provide a final update for 2021.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) finished nesting in cliff cavity sites and young successfully fledged from the nest sites. Raptor advisories have been lifted for the remainder of the year. For further information refer to the Pinnacles raptor advisories page - and feel free to ask me for further clarifications.

For the 2021 season, nine PRFA pairs and four PEFA pairs occupied territories, and of these, eight PRFA pairs and all four PEFA pairs successfully nested and fledged young this year. In fact, this has been the most productive year for breeding falcons at Pinnacles since 2013, with falcon nests fledging 31 PRFA and 9 PEFA young in 2021. For information on territory locations and rock formations, refer to Brad Young's climber's guidebook to Pinnacles.

PRFA and PEFA breeding efforts for 2021 are listed below:

  • '''Resurrection Wall: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 4 young
  • Prescribed Burn Cliffs / Piedras Bonitas: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 5 young
  • South Balconies: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 3 young
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 2 young
  • Citadel: PRFA nest, nest failure
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 4 young
  • Drywall Slide: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 4 young
  • orth Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 5 young
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, successfully fledged 4 young
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA nest, successfully fledged 1 young
  • General Balconies: PEFA nest, successfully fledged 3 young
  • South Chalone Peak: PEFA nest, successfully fledged 3 young
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks: PEFA nest, successfully fledged 2 young

As noted above, climbing and hiking advisories have been lifted for the 2021 season. The official park website reflects current advisory information, as do the Friends of Pinnacles and Mud 'n Crud websites. Let me know if you have further questions.

Highlights for cliff-cavity nesting falcons this year include 4 successful PEFA nesting pairs producing 9 fledglings (as mentioned above), record highs documented at Pinnacles in the past 35 years of the monitoring program. PRFA productivity was the highest recorded since 2013, with eight nests producing 31 fledglings. Also of interest is the close proximity of two PRFA and PEFA nesting pairs, at South Chalone Peak and at Balconies. In some situations in previous years, PEFA pairs have apparently pushed PRFA pairs out of historical nesting territories, so it is intriguing to see at least certain situations where PRFA and PEFA pairs have been able to tolerate each other in close proximity of nesting efforts. In 2021, PRFA and PEFA pairs at South Chalone Peak and Balconies all succeeded in fledging young.

In addition to PRFA and PEFA, we had a productive breeding season for other nesting raptor species. In all we confirmed 35 raptor nests for 10 species this year; these are listed below:

  • golden eagles: 1 nest
  • red-tailed hawks: 9 nests
  • red-shouldered hawks: 4 nests
  • American kestrels: 3 nests
  • Cooper's hawks: 2 nests
  • long-eared owls: 1 nest
  • great horned owls: 1 nest
  • barn owls: 1 nest

Two Cooper's hawk nests were confirmed this year, and both of them successfully fledged young. In addition to long-eared owls, these forest hawks are important to document because they are sensitive to disturbance and tracked as California species of concern by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Documentation of these nesting species helps confirm our understanding of the health and diversity of Pinnacles habitats and provides important data points for future management recommendations.

One golden eagle nest was confirmed at Pinnacles National Park this year, and the nesting eagle pair at the site successfully raised 2 young. One young was confirmed fledging, and the second young was very close to fledging when last observed at about 9 weeks of age.

Four pairs of red-shouldered hawks successfully nested and fledged young at Pinnacles National Park this year.

Raptor Photo Gallery

(all photos by Gavin Emmons - copyright 2021)

Our success in tracking so many raptor nests this year is definitely thanks to the efforts of our passionate and committed raptor monitoring volunteers - Megan Gnekow, Mike Baird, and Joseph Belli. All of them have been volunteering with the condor and raptor monitoring programs for years, and their assistance in confirming raptor status at the park this year is greatly appreciated. I also want to thank the condor interns - Danae Mouton, Sarah Marquez, and Stacy Lammers - for their observations of falcon nesting and other raptor activity this season. We would not have been able to document the diversity and breadth of raptor nesting at Pinnacles this year without their combined expertise and passion.

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 email me details including time, location, species, and details of activity observed.

Thanks, everyone - take care, stay safe, and here's hoping for another productive raptor year in 2022!

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please contact me via email or extension 4279. Thanks!

GAVIN EMMONS

Wildlife Specialist
5000 Highway 146, Paicines, CA 95043
831-389-4486 x4279

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.

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