Four peregrine falcons banded
Hello Bear, Scout, Katherine and Sheyenne. And goodbye. Those were names, chosen by a local contest, unveiled Wednesday for the latest additions to Fargo's peregrine falcon family. Offspring of Dakota Ace and Frieda, the falcons who have made a n...
Hello Bear, Scout, Katherine and Sheyenne. And goodbye.
Those were names, chosen by a local contest, unveiled Wednesday for the latest additions to Fargo's peregrine falcon family. Offspring of Dakota Ace and Frieda, the falcons who have made a nest box on the 12th floor of the downtown Bank of the West building their home for the past several years, two male and two female chicks were removed from their nest and banded.
The chicks, returned to the nest afterward, were 21 days old. The youngsters will be flying in another 21 days, said retired University of Minnesota ornithology professor Bud Tordoff, who aided the banding.
And after Bear, Scout, Katherine and Sheyenne are old enough to be on their own? What happens then is anybody's guess.
Statistically speaking, the four young falcons' chance of survival is thin. Only about 10 to 15 percent of hatched peregrines live to reach the breeding age of 2 years old, Tordoff said.
"But once they reach breeding age, their survival rate increases to 80 or 85 percent. They do pretty well once they reach adulthood," Tordoff said. "There is a high mortality rate in the first year or two, which is typical of any bird or mammal you look at."
Since peregrines began nesting in Fargo in 2000, nine chicks have survived long enough to strike out on their own, according to Fargo attorney and falcon enthusiast Wick Corwin. Of those nine, the whereabouts of two are known today. A male and a female from the 2003 brood established nests of their own - the female in Brandon, Man., and the male in Minneapolis.
Assuming no other falcons have survived, that's a 22 percent survival rate.
"Statistically, that's better than average," Corwin said. "That's pretty darn good."
Even if Bear, Scout, Katherine and Sheyenne live into their peregrine golden years (average life expectancy is 12 to 15 years), they likely won't be seen again in Fargo-Moorhead. Falcons are highly territorial, Tordoff said, and the chicks' parents already have a claim on this area.
"They like to have a half-mile space from their nearest neighbors," Tordoff said. "They don't like close neighbors."
Wednesday, however, was much more an introduction than a farewell.
Corwin and Mark Martell of the National Audubon Society used fishing nets to scoop the screeching fuzzy white chicks - each weighing about 11/2 pounds - from their nest while the birds' parents swooped and shrieked overhead.
The four chicks were placed inside a soft-sided carrying case and brought inside the bank building, where Tordoff and Martell crimped two bands on the left legs of each bird. Banding identifies the falcons and allows researchers to study dispersal, migration, behavior and social structure, life span, survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.
A blood sample also was taken from each chick.
This year's brood looks to be healthy, Tordoff said, with the baby birds displaying a good amount of spunk.
"This is a good brood," Tordoff said. "The birds look terrific. They are clean and healthy looking. They don't have parasites on them."
Dakota Ace and Frieda have been a pair of productive peregrines, Tordoff said.
"They've been doing very well," he said. "Every year they've been cranking out a family. You can't do much better than that."
Decimated by the chemical DDT in the first half of the 20th century, peregrines were once considered an endangered speices. But the bird's population bounced back after DDT was banned in 1962 and the peregrine has since been removed from the endangered species list.
Historically nesting on high cliffs, the falcon has adjusted to modern surroundings by using tall city buildings for nesting sites. Peregrines feed on other birds - knocking them from the sky at speeds of better than 100 miles per hour - and the falcons have found cities to be good places to hunt pigeons, starlings and other birds.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike McFeely at (701) 241-5580