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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Wings over South Campus

A peregrine falcon family, babies included, can be viewed via nest camera

<p>The tower of the MacKay Heating Plant, on UB's South Campus, is home to a family of peregrine falcons.</p>

The tower of the MacKay Heating Plant, on UB's South Campus, is home to a family of peregrine falcons.

In South Campus’ MacKay Heating Plant tower is home to a family of rare birds: peregrine falcons. 

Once eliminated from New York, peregrine falcons are a rare sight across the state, but have regularly nested in the historic tower. UB installed a nest box in 2009 and, since then, they’ve installed a “Falcon Cam.”

The Falcon Cam has three different cameras, one of which shows inside the nest box, which is currently occupied by two eggs and two recent hatchlings.

Peregrine falcons have nested in downtown Buffalo since 1996. The Statler Hotel had a nest camera of its own, although it’s no longer operational.

These cameras are a glimpse into the unique lives of peregrine falcons, which have been the focus of a Department of Environmental Conservation restoration plan dedicated to rebuilding the falcon population after it was decimated by effects of the insecticide DDT.

After the U.S. banned DDT in 1972, falcon populations began to climb back from the brink of extinction, and are now listed as a “least concern” species. Despite being removed from the endangered species list in 1999, they are still considered endangered in New York.

WNY Raptor and Wildlife Care is dedicated to studying and rehabilitating injured birds of prey, as well as educating the public on what to do when encountering them.

Peregrine falcons are the fastest animal on earth, and can reach speeds of over 200 mph when diving for prey.

“They’ll hunt on the wing, which is pretty amazing, and a skill that takes a lot of practice,” WNY Raptor founder and Director Bernadette Clabeaux said. “When I had a few in rehab, I had to make sure I was tossing their food up in the air and making sure that they were able to actually catch it and hunt it. So it was pretty radical.”

Juvenile peregrines face a critical moment in their lives 35 to 45 days after hatching, when they reach adult size and make their first dive out of the nest. Many falcons injure themselves while getting used to their bodies, and only one in 10 make it to breeding age.

“They’re like us when we’re younger, and we’re trying to find our feet,” Clabeaux said. “They’re growing into their body, so they don’t realize how big they are. They might hit the end of a tree when they’re in a dive. So that’s probably what happened to this little guy.”

The “little guy” in question was a young falcon found on a flower pot at Outer Harbor.

“I assessed it and it had a wing fracture at the distal end, like in the wrist,” Clabeaux said. “We ended up getting it to the veterinary in Ithaca, and they wrapped it. Then we got it back and flight tested it, banded it, and released it to that exact flower pot where he was where he was found. So it was really cute.”

Peregrine falcons mate for life — but partners are replaced if one dies — and frequently return to the same nest year to year.

One of the frequent flyers of the MacKay nest box once had to be removed after becoming aggressive towards people.

Clabeaux encourages students to get involved with local bird groups, and to participate in citizen science to help monitor the peregrine falcon population.

“It’s nice to actually be able to see them again in Buffalo,” Clabeaux said. “To be able to actually work with them firsthand like I do with rehab is just amazing. It’s an incredible, incredible thing.”

Dominick Matarese is the senior features editor and can be reached at dominick.matarese@ubspectrum.com 


DOMINICK MATARESE
dominick-matarese.jpg

Dominick Matarese is the Senior Features Editor at the Spectrum. He enjoys writing about interesting people, places, and things. In addition to running an independent blog, he has worked worked with the Owego Pennysaver, BROOME Magazine, the Fulcrum Newspaper, and Festisia. He is passionate about music journalism and can be found enjoying live music most weekends. 

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