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2006 Raptor Nesting Report

The 2006 season continues to go extremely well in regards to confirmation of raptor nesting at Pinnacles. To put this in perspective a bit, last year’s numbers were 27 raptor nests and 9 species of nesting raptors confirmed, both record highs through all previous years of the project. There are currently 54 documented raptor nests in the park, representing 12 species of raptors. These numbers represent the most nests, and the most nesting species, ever confirmed at Pinnacles in a single season.

Prairie falcons (PRFAs) and the peregrine falcon (PEFA) pair are actively feeding nestlings throughout the park, with falcon young already fledging (or flying for the first time) from a few nests. At present there are 6 active PRFA nests, 3 nests that have produced fledglings, 5 failed PRFA nests, a non-nesting PRFA pair at Little Pinnacles, and the PEFA pair with a confirmed nest.

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

PRFA nestlings at most nest sites are actively exercising their wings and have fully developed juvenile plumage, with young close to or already making initial flights from the nest sites.

The peregrine falcon nest has 3 nestlings that are exercising their wings, and should be flying within two to three days.

Please note that revised climbing and hiking advisories are in effect. So far, climbers have done a great job of staying out of the advisory areas. Hikers have been observed in the advisory area at Hawkins Peak, but did not disrupt the peregrine falcon nest in the territory.

In addition to prairie and peregrine falcon nests, 39 other raptor nests have been confirmed this year. One of the most recent noteworthy discoveries is a turkey vulture nest, discovered by Ben Nugent (of the IWS pig crew) with 2 nestlings confirmed in the cavity site. Although turkey vultures likely nest within the park every year, their behavior is very cryptic, and an active nest has not been confirmed since 1984!

A number of buteo pairs (red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks) have already produced fledglings, with the rest feeding developing nestlings. At present, there are 3 red-tailed hawk (RTHA) nests and 1 red-shouldered hawk (RSHA) nest that still contain nestlings, with 4 RTHA and 4 RSHA nests successfully fledging young.

Golden eagles have also been seen regularly in and near the park over the past month. The eagle nest successfully fledged two eagle young from one of the historic nest sites.

Other diurnal (daytime) raptors with confirmed nests include American kestrels (AMKE), white-tailed kites (WTKI), and Cooper's hawks (COHA). White-tailed kites have never been confirmed nesting at Pinnacles National Monument before, and this year we have 5 confirmed nests for the species! Kestrel and kite nests are producing fledglings now, with a couple of late nests still active. Cooper's hawks typically produce young very late in the breeding season, in late June to July.

Other raptors observed in the park include sharp-shinned hawks, active throughout the park along riparian corridors, northern harriers over open grassland areas, and bald eagles and ospreys, observed infrequently above the High Peaks.

8 owl nests (and 2 additional fledging records) have also been documented this year, representing the 3 largest owl species that occur in the park: great-horned owls (GHOW), barn owls (BAOW), and long-eared owls (LEOW).

The long-eared owl nest did successfully produce two fledglings. The young have not been seen in two weeks, but are likely still perching on high oak branches in the area. The LEOW nest found in the South Wilderness was used last year by a sharp-shinned hawk pair, and was confirmed as a nest attempt and failure this year after the 3 nestlings were found below the nest, likely killed and eaten by predators.

Every detail on raptor behavior helps to provide a more complete picture of raptor breeding at the park.

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please contact me at gavon_emmons@nps.gov or call (831)389-4485 ext 270.

Thanks!


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