McFeely: Time to rally, Fargo, because the peregrine falcons need a home

Our beloved peregrine falcons, those magnificent birds that have called downtown Fargo home for more than 20 years, have lost their nesting platform on the Bell Bank building.

A peregrine falcon circles a nest
A peregrine falcon circles its nest.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

FARGO — This situation might not be as critical as the Red River floods of 1997 and 2009, but it's time for Fargo-Moorhead to rally again.

Our beloved peregrine falcons, those magnificent birds that have called downtown Fargo home for more than 20 years, have lost their nesting box on the Bell Bank building (formerly the Bank of the West building at 520 Main Ave., near Island Park).

In a story posted to InForum Wednesday , a spokewoman for Bell said the platform was removed during the building's ongoing renovation for safety reasons and, as of now, the bank has no plans to reinstall another platform.

This came after the camera on the platform, owned and operated by Audubon Dakota to livestream peregrine families as they nested and hatched, was removed after being damaged by weather. The nonprofit Audubon Dakota couldn't afford to buy new camera equipment or to pay for the high-speed internet needed for a quality feed.

So, what we're left with is no nesting platform and no livestream.


We need to fix this, ASAP.

Peregrines are incredible birds. They prey on other birds and use their high perches both to construct a safe nest and to spot potential meals. In Fargo, that mostly means pigeons. The crow-sized falcons will dive-bomb pigeons — tucking their wings back and reaching speeds of up to 240 miles per hour — before striking their prey and grabbing it in mid-air.

Falcon chicks

These amazing creatures are the fastest bird and fastest land animal in the world. They are fascinating.

And there's a possibility the peregrines won't nest in downtown Fargo anymore. Sarah Hewitt of Audubon Dakota said the falcons don't need a platform to nest, but it couldn't hurt.

"Wildlife are pretty opportunistic. If they find a good spot, they might nest anyway," she said. "But there's no doubt a platform might help and it's a really good thing for the community."

Bell Bank's Karen Stensrud said the bank is trying to find another location for a nesting box but hasn't found anywhere yet.

Peregrine falcons nest on cliffs and other high locations. They are known to nest on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Being this is Fargo-Moorhead, the flat bottom of an ancient lakebed, there are no towering cliffs. The option, therefore, is tall (by our standards) buildings.

That leaves few options.


The Bell Bank building. The Block 9 building. The Radisson.

And that's about it.

Bell Bank to purchase Bank of the West building
This image reflects changes Bell Bank plans to make to a building in downtown Fargo that it is in the process of purchasing. The building is currently home to Bank of the West. Image provided by Bell Bank.

I would be the last guy to tell anybody what to do (ahem), but somebody at those three structures has to find a way to put up a peregrine nesting box. Surely there's a spot on one of those buildings to give the wonderful peregrines a home.

And surely, with all the money floating around this town, there is a business willing to underwrite the camera equipment and streaming needs so Audubon Dakota can livestream the peregrine's next activities to the masses.

Maybe even a media company that has numerous cameras posted in lofty locations around the region already and has the most popular news website in North Dakota (I did not run this by the honchos before writing it so I'm walking the plank for the peregrines, people.)

I mean, North Dakota State's football program is building a $50 million practice facility and the Fargo Park District recently broke ground on a $77 million recreation center. Can somebody find a few thousands bucks in the cushions of their couch to fund the peregrines? I think that's possible.

If we can't find a spot for a peregrine nesting platform and the proper camera equipment to keep tabs on them, we should be embarrassed.

In the immortal words of John James Audubon, famed ornithologist, painter and namesake to the worldwide conservation organization: Get 'er done.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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