Peregrine Falcon Chicks Are Banded for Future Tracking

Buffalo, NY – There was a brief disturbance Monday morning high a top of the Statler Building in downtown Buffalo. The two peregrine falcons, nested at a 17th floor window, watched as human hands snatched up their three chicks.

Inside the Statler Building, on-lookers gathered at a TV monitor, watching a live feed as the State Department of Environmental Conservation reached into the nest for the baby falcons. Outside, one of the adult falcons swooped toward the hand of a DEC worker at the top of the 17th floor window. The parents flew back and forth without landing on the perch -- clearly upset that a predator took all three young falcons.

"In their simple minds, a predator came and took their chicks away," said Mark Kandel, a senior wildlife biologist with the state DEC. "At that point, they probably thought it was over, now all of a sudden the chicks are back."

The DEC removed the three-week-old falcons in order to band them. This will allow the conservationists to track the future migration of the falcons from the Buffalo area.

"We put a color band on one leg with a large letter and number combination," Kandel explained. "It can be read from a distance with binoculars. A second band, that has a unique number registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, will go into the registry in Maryland. If this bird shows up in another nest, happens to show up dead or on a ledge in another city, wherever it shows up, it should get reported and we will be able to track where these birds end up."

Before the baby falcons were returned to the nest the DEC measured each chick to determine the sex, size and health. Their mouths were checked for parasites that could cause lesions. They were also checked for lice. Wildlife biologist Kandel says all three are female in very good health.

"They seem large for three weeks," Kandel continued. "They all full crops, they all had been feed. They have a little bit of lice which is common in urban birds, but all are very health."

One of the white, fluffy feathered chicks was much more aggressive with the DEC workers then her siblings during the examination. The DEC says that chick was probably a day or two younger than her sisters, making a big difference in behavior. Kandel says the baby falcons should start flying in about three weeks.

"When they take their first flight, they don't have much experience," Kandal said. "They glide to the next nearest ledge. Often they will show up down at street level. If that happens please notify the DEC office at the Staler Building."

But potentially how far could these young falcons if travel if they decided to leave the Buffalo region?

"Some of these birds migrate to South America and then back again," Kandel said. "We don't have a lot of reports on the birds from Buffalo, but we know birds banded in other cities and in Ontario generally set up shop and nest in another city, which could be hundreds of miles away. For example, the female nesting here in buffalo came from a nest in New Brunswick."

Even thought the falcons are living in the city, they still find plenty of other wildlife to feast on for survival. Kandel says they primarily eat other birds.

"The adults kill their prey in flight," Kandal said. "They will fly high and drop down on the prey. In Buffalo, they feed mostly on migrating songbirds as well as starlings. They also go out to waterfront and feed on shore birds, even small ducks and small gulls."

The peregrine falcons began nesting at the Statler Building back in 1996. The DEC says with the three new falcons that means a grand total of 22 fledglings from the downtown site. Right now the adult falcons are busy raising their young, protecting and feeding them. But Kandel says once they take flight, they won't be welcome to return to the nest.

"While the chicks are young and being cared for, the parents are defensive," he said. "Once the can take care themselves it is just the opposite, they don't want them around anymore."

The peregrine falcon is on the endangered species list. To view the falcons up close there are two TV monitors at the Statler. One placed in a window to view across from the Buffalo Convention Center on Franklin Street. The other located directly inside the Statler lobby. Or bring binoculars and stand below and look up toward the top of the building.