Jun 24 2008
June 24, 2008
He was one of ours.
At 11:45am I got a call at work from someone I’d never met. She was standing by the Rand Building at Fifth Avenue and Craig Street and there was a dead peregrine falcon at her feet. She told me his band numbers. I knew immediately that he was one of the young falcons born at the Cathedral of Learning in April.
Though she told me he was no longer breathing, I ran down Fifth Avenue with my bird rescue towel. When I arrived he was still warm but, yes, he was dead.
Poor baby! On the sidewalk near him were pieces of pigeon. Only a few minutes earlier he had been zooming by with food in his talons and had not seen that the windows were walls, they were not dark openings. The impact broke his neck. There was nothing anyone could do.
Several people saw it happen. Someone in the Rand Building was looking out the window when our youngster hit the wall. Someone at street level was using the ATM machine below when his body fell to the sidewalk. Gail Newton and Nancy Janda were walking by and stopped to help. Two peregrines flew over as we knelt near him. His family saw it too.
Both Gail and Nancy work at SEI next door to the Rand Building. Gail is also a volunteer at the National Aviary so she knew how to read his vital signs and who to call. I am so grateful they called me at WQED. I am so glad I could see him and hold him.
If he had been alive, there would have been a lot to do. As it was, there was only the issue of burying him. Federal law prohibits anyone without a permit from collecting a dead bird. The law is even stricter for endangered peregrine falcons. In Pennsylvania, the Game Commission decides what to do with his body so I called Beth Fife, our local WCO, and she told me to report his band numbers to the Game Commission record keepers and then I could bury him.
I took his picture just before we buried him. He rests within sight of the place he was born.
Requiescat in pace.
(photo by Kate St. John)
Update, 2014: This was the first juvenile death I witnessed since I began monitoring peregrines in 2001.