Peregrine Falcons at the University of Michigan

The Peregrines on the bell tower. The light bird is the male, the larger, dark bird the female. Photos by Richard Miller

Two Peregrine Falcons were sighted at the University of Michigan Burton carillon tower on March 8 2006, around 11-12:00, independently by David Mindell and Jacco Gelderloos. They have been hanging around the bell tower ever since. Everyone was hoping they would nest, and as they stayed longer and longer, it seemed certain they would.

We placed a spotting scope in the window of our bird collection room, where we have a great view of the east side of the tower. We have been checking on them several times a day since.

At first the birds spent most of their time on the two top ledges, by the windows. They have been normally seen on the east or south side in the mornings, and were often absent in the afternoons. The last couple of weeks they have mostly been sitting on the very top, just below the edge of the green roof on the east and south sides. They have been observed hopping down into the gutter under the roof edge. It is possible they are nesting either there or on one of the ledges. Copulation was observed by John Kennard at 1:00pm on 20 April 2006, and several times more during the next week.

A third bird was seen for a few days the third week in April, but soon disappeared.

Karen Cleveland, Biologist for the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources visited 17 May and went up in the tower. They were unable to see a nest anywhere, but not all ledges are visible from inside. So it apprears the nest is in an unaccessible site. The male has been sitting on the SW corner of the tower for the last week or so, so it is possible the nest is on that side of the building. Please keep checking and let us know if you see anything! It is not clear where the birds came from, as the complete bands have not been visible and thus a positive ID has not been made.

In late June/early July the male greatly reduced the number of items he was bringing to the tower, and we started seeing the female sitting on the tower during the day, so the female probably gave up the nesting attempt. The birds are still hanging around the tower, but the number of food items found is reduced. It is possible that one or both may stay the winter, but they could also leave, and hopefully come back next spring.

The "tooth" on the upper bill and the notch in the lower bill allow the bird to shear bones and tough tissue. Falcons have a round nostril, opening within the cere (the fleshy colored area at the base of the bill).

photo of specimen from Idaho by Janet Hinshaw

Bob Payne, Curator of Birds, Janet Hinshaw, Collection Manager, Sherri Smith, Art School, and John Kennard, Musical Society have been checking around the base of the tower for food remains. We are collecting the remains in the Bird Division. So far their menu has included:

2006 food remains found:

6 April - Woodcock (2 wings, male)
10 April- Woodcock wing
12 April- Kingfisher wing, Woodcock head
15 April- 2 Woodcock heads, Mourning Dove
19 April- Flicker (head, male)
20 April- Rock Dove (feathers), Woodcock (wing, male)
21 April- Rock Dove (part of trunk, feathers)
22 April- Sora Rail (foot), Starling (foot), Black Billed Cuckoo wing feathers
23 April - Starling
24 April- Sora Rail (head)
26 April- Woodcock (head)
27 April- Rock Dove (part of trunk)
28 April- Common Snipe (head & trunk)
29 April- Sora Rail (foot), Woodcock (pectoral girdle)
30 April- Eastern Meadowlark (head), unknown pelvis
1 May- pellet
4 May unidentifiable parts
5 May- Black-billed Cuckoo tail and wing feather
8 May- Mourning Dove tail feathers, 1 small unidentified passerine primary

photo by Janet Hinshaw

Can you identify the birds the Peregrines have been eating? Clockwise from top: Snipe head, Woodcock head, Meadowlark head, Rock Dove feather, Sora Rail foot, Sora Rail head, Woodcock wing

9 May- unidentified small pelvis
11 May- entire Kingfisher carcass (very dry, probably was old and blew off ledge)
12 May- pellet
15 May- 2 Mourning Dove tail feathers
17 May- 2 pellets, Mourning Dove feathers
18 May- Yellow-billed Cuckoo (entire bird), Black-billed Cuckoo tail feather
19 May- Green Heron carcass (old)
22 May- Black-billed cuckoo wing and body part
24 May- Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male) head and parts of 2 wings, 1 entire Black-billed Cuckoo, BB Cuckoo wing, 1 BB Cuckoo head, 1 YB Cuckoo head
25 May- 1 pellet, 1 YB Cuckoo head
26 May- 1 pellet
28 May- BB Cuckoo head, wing & tail feathers
29 May- YB Cuckoo 1 entire bird plus 4 wings (2 birds), BB Cuckoo 1 wing, Sora Rail head & body parts
30 May- YB Cuckoo 1 wing & tail feathers
31 May- Kingbird head, YBC entire, YBC tail, Kingfisher carcass (old)
1 June- BBC pelvis, leg, 1 tail feather
2 June- 1 YBC primary, pellet
3 June- entire cuckoo
5 June- BBC tail, Woodcock head, Green Heron wing
6 June- Woodcock (entire skeleton- old), BBC head, Mourning dove feathers, BBC back half (goes with head found in morning?)
7 June- Pied-billed Grebe (R wing)
8 June- Pied-billed Grebe (whole dried carcass), + L wing, 3 YBC heads, YBC whole carcass, BBC 2 wings, unidentified passerine primary feather, Peregrine tail feather (molted)
9 June- YBC head, tail, wing feathers, BBC wing, Peregrine upper tail covert (molted)
12 June- Woodcock head, YBC head, YBC head, neck, wing, & leg, pellet
13 June- YBC tail, 2 additional tail feathers
14 June- 1 whole YBC, 1 YBC head
15 June- Mourning Dove wing & tail feathes; YBC wing feather & tail, BBC head & tail feathers, pigeon wing & tail feathers
16 June- BBC tail & wing feathers, YBC wing feathers, Woodcock pelvis & tibiotarsus
17 June- YBC head, pelvis & legs
18 June- whole Least Bittern, whole BB Cuckoo, YBC tail
19 June- BBC tail & wing feathers; YBC tail & wing feathers; Mourning Dove? wing feather, unid wing feather (RB Grosbeak?)
20 June- BBC tail feather, Coot leg & pelvis, YBC wing
21 June- YBC tail feather
22 June- BBC tail & secondary feathers, YBC lower mandible, chimney swift primary, Mourning Dove feather
26 June- Mourning Dove secondary, tail feathers, pigeon foot & feathers, YB Cuckoo whole bird, YBC foot & 2 heads, feathers, woodcock wing, swift primaries, pellet
27 June- YB cuckoo feathers, swift primary, Mourning Dove feathers, pigeon feather, woodcock foot
28 June- YB Cuckoo feathers, Pied-billed grebe (whole carcass w/o head), pigeon feathers

29 June- pigeon wing (same as feathers for last two days), YB cuckoo wing feather, Pied-billed Grebe carcass
2 July- Pied-billed Greve legs (old), cuckoo head & feathers, Mourning Dove feathers, pellet
3 July- Mourning Dove feathers, YB Cuckoo whole, woodcock legs (old)
5 July- cuckoo feathers, dark primaries
6 July- Mourning Dove wing, YB cuckoo tail feather, pellet
7 July- YB Cuckoo head, tail & wing feathers, swift primaries, unid primary, peregrine secondary
10 July- pigeon primary, swift primary, cuckoo primary
11 July- YBC (parts of 2 L wings, tail feather, R wing feathers), small dark passrine feathers, pellet, falcon feather
12 July- pigeon feather, M Dove tail feather, peregrine feather
13 July- YBC wing feather, M Dove wing feathers
15 July- 2 YBC tail feathers, 1 whole headlessYBC, chimney swift feather, pellet, 1 peregrine feather
I was out of town until early August, so the tally resumes here-

4 Aug- Pied-billed Grebe head, cuckoo pelvis & legs, 3 unid feathers
10 Aug- BB Cuckoo wing & tail feathers, Mourning Dove w&t feathers, 2 pellets, also 2 peregrine feathers found
11 Aug- Mourning dove w feathers, 1 peregrine body feather
14 Aug- 1 BB Cuckoo wing & foot, Mourning Dove body feathers, 2 small unid feathers, old YB Cuckoo wing found by Museum.
15 Aug- whole YB Cuckoo, pigeon wing feather, small black unid wing feather.
18 Aug- BB Cuckoo (whole), Sora Rail head, part of wing
19 Aug- 3 Sora rail feet
22 Aug- Sora Rail head, 2 feet, House Sparrow head & foot, pellet
23 Aug- M Dove, YBC feathers, sora Rail wing & foot, Pigeon feathers, 2 pellets, 2 Peregrine feathers, bat wing
24 Aug- M Dove, rail?
27 Aug- Sora Rail head, 3 feet, pigeon foot, cuckoo foot, nighthawk feather, Peregrine feather <BR> 29 Aug- Nighthawk wing
31 Aug- M Dove foot, Sora Rail foot, head & pt wing, Pied-billed Grebe legs, pelvis & sternum
3 Sept- 3 Sora Rail feet & 2 heads, 1 wing, cuckoo tail feathers & foot, House Sparrow head & legs, Flicker foot
6 Sept- BB Cuckoo head, Pigeon head, imm Robin feathers, pellet
11 Sept- back 1/2 of Sora Rail
13 Sept- 3 Sora Rail feet, rail? sternum, M Dove feather
15 Sept- YB Cuckoo
19 Sept- Sora Rail whole + 1 head, Green Heron head, BBCuckoo whole, 3 YBCuckoo whole, 1 YBC head + 2 feet, Hermit Thrush wing, 2 swift primaries
20 Sept- Flicker wings & trunk, pigeon wing
21 Sept- 2 Flicker wings, YBCuckoo head
22 Sept- 2 left Flicker wings & head, Virginia Rail wing
24 Sept- Sora Rail (all but head), VA Rail, Woodcock, Flicker L wing, YBCuckoo R wing

25 Sept- Flicker R wing & head, YBCuckoo wing, Mourning Dove tail feather, Green Heron legs & wing, Moorhen legs & trunk (old) Red-breasted Grosbeak head, Peregrine primary feather
26 Sept- BBCuckoo back half, M Dove tail feathers
28 Sept- pair YB Cuckoo wings, Flicker head & 2 wings, Green Heron wing
2 Oct- Pied-billed Grebe head
3 Oct- YBCuckoo head
4 Oct- Woodcock wing, YB Cuckoo head
5 Oct- BBCuckoo tail
6 Oct- YELLOW RAIL 2 wings, Woodcock wing, pigeon feathers, swift feather, cuckoo leg, pellet
8 Oct- YBCuckoo head, wings & tail, Woodcock 2 legs, 2 wings, & head, pellet
9 Oct- Mourning Dove head, pellet
10 Oct- Woodcock leg, YBCuckoo wing, M Dove tail feathers
11 Oct- Pied-billed Grebe whole
12 Oct- Woodcock head
13 Oct- Cuckoo leg
14 Oct- Woodcock, 2 YB Cuckoos, peregrine feather
16 Oct- Woodcock head, wing, M Dove wing, tail feathers
20 Oct- M Dove
22 Oct- Partial wing - M Dove? 24 Oct- Woodcock head
25 Oct- YBCuckoo head, shorebird wing
26 Oct- Woodcock head
30 Oct- Woodcock body & head, 1 wing, 1 leg
31 Oct- Woodcock head 6 Nov- Bufflehead wing, 2 Hermit Thrush tail feathers
8 Nov- flicker feathers, woodcock feathers
9 Nov- Bufflehead bill, Fox Sparrow head
10 Nov- Bufflehead wing
13 Nov- Woodcock sternum (old) & feathers, Mourning Dove feathers
14 Nov- Pigeon, grebe foot
15 Nov- Pigeon, grebe wing
16 Nov- Pigeon carcass
20 Nov- YB Cuckoo (whole, old), Stilt Sandpiper head, pellet
21 Nov- YB Cuckoo (old)
22 Nov- duck? old, YB Cuckoo feather, Bufflehead head
26 Nov- Mourning Dove, Pigeon, Robin feathers
27 Nov- Bufflehead wing feathers
4 Dec- Sora Rail head
8 Dec- Flicker wing & body (old)
13 Dec Sora Rail leg (old)
18 Dec- Dunlin wing (old)
24 Dec- Sora Rail back half (old)
31 Dec- Woodcock leg

2007 -old remains from 2006 blown down

2 April- Virginia Rail head, Woodcock
4 April- Pied-billed Grebe body, legs, 1 wing, 1 unid wing, 1 Sora Rail head
16 April- YB Cuckoo
23 April- Pied-billed Grebe leg, cuckoo head, Woodcock leg
24 April- cuckoo tail

Since 18 May we have found remains of approximately 74 cuckoos!


We ask that people do not pick up remains they find, but let us retrieve them.

Thanks to Richard Miller for the use of his great photos!

Back to Bird Division page

Last updated 19 April 2007

photo taken in Alaska by David Mindell