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Pinnacles Raptor Monitoring Update for April 2024

Hi Everyone,

For any new staff, interns, climbers or volunteers that don't know me, my name is Gavin Emmons and I lead up the raptor monitoring program for Pinnacles National Park (PINN). The following update details the status of breeding raptor activity at the park so far this season.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) have returned to nesting territories and are preparing cliff cavity nest sites or beginning to actively incubate eggs at chosen sites. Raptor advisories are in effect to help protect these magnificent raptors from disturbance, and advisory signs are posted at Balconies, Hawkins Peak, and near Little Pinnacles / Yaks Wall. For current advisories in effect, refer to the PINN raptor advisories page - and feel free to ask me for further clarifications.

For the 2024 season, PRFA and PEFA have been confirmed occupying eight and four territories respectively. Most of the falcon pairs have selected nesting sites and are incubating eggs, with a few pairs late in their nesting patterns and still selecting sites for nesting. For information on territory locations and rock formations, refer to Brad Young's climber's guidebook to Pinnacles.

PRFA and PEFA breeding efforts for 2024:

  • Goat Rock: PRFA pair, nest confirmed
  • Egg / Teapot Dome: PRFA pair, nest confirmed
  • South Balconies: PRFA pair, not yet nesting
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA pair, nest confirmed
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA pair, not nesting
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA pair, nest confirmed
  • Drywall Slide: PRFA pair, not yet nesting
  • Gargoyle / Piedras Bonitas Cliffs: PRFA pair, nest confirmed
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks Wall / The Hand: PEFA pair, nest confirmed
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair, nest confirmed
  • General / North Balconies: PEFA pair, nest confirmed
  • South Chalone Peak: PEFA pair, nest not yet confirmed

PRFA and PEFA are actively defending territories and will alarm call or dive at intruders (including people!) that get too close to their nest sites.

In addition to PRFA and PEFA, other raptor species actively breeding right now in the park include American kestrels, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, great horned owls, and long-eared owls. Red-shouldered hawks nest and hunt along mature riparian corridors in the park, and often call noisily from near their chosen nest sites.

This year we have confirmed two nests for long-eared owls, a California species of concern that breeds annually at the park. Long-eared owls do not build their own nests; instead they make use of old raptor nest constructs, primarily from sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks here at PINN.

Two golden eagle pairs attempted to nest this year, at historic territories in the park and just outside of the west side entrance. Unfortunately, both nest attempts failed. Like cliff-cavity nesting falcons, golden eagles are quite sensitive to disturbance, from humans as well as potential nest predators. Hopefully they will have better success next year.

As noted above, climbing and hiking advisories are in effect for the 2024 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.

Raptor Photo Gallery

(all photos by Gavin Emmons - copyright 2024)

This year several people have been assisting with raptor monitoring at Pinnacles - Mike Baird, Joseph Belli, Kaitlin Lopez, Megan Gnekow, and Idangie Sein. All of them have been working with the condor and / or raptor monitoring programs for years, and their assistance in confirming raptor status at the park 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 email details of observations including species, date, location, and times. Your reports help us comprehensively track raptor activity at the park over the years.

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

Pinnacles News

  • Fire Danger Alerts

    As of July 1, 2024, all fires in Pinnacles National Park are prohibited for the remainder of the summer fire season.

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