It’s been the best and worst of weeks for Buffalo’s fledgling peregrine falcons.
Triumph over Monday’s successful rescue and rehabilitation of a pair of raptor chicks from the Richardson Olmsted Complex property was overshadowed by tragedy Wednesday afternoon. That’s when a peregrine chick from the Statler Towers nest was killed after slamming into an office window at the new Federal Courthouse in downtown Buffalo.
“They’re just at the age when they are just learning to fly,” said Gina Browning, spokeswoman for the SPCA Serving Erie County.
The SPCA nursed a pair of falcon chicks back to full strength after they had been rescued by state Department of Environmental Conservation officials Monday from the Richardson Olmsted Complex. They are expected to be banded by the DEC and placed back near their home today.
Security officials at the Richardson complex called the DEC late Monday afternoon reporting a young peregrine hadn’t moved from a 6-foot fence in more than six hours. DEC personnel retrieved the bird. Then, after hearing several bird calls, they found a second fledgling on a nearby stair stoop.
Both were taken to the SPCA.
“There were no signs of physical injury,” Browning said, adding that the birds, both reportedly females, suffered from “a little bit of heat exhaustion” and were “mildly dehydrated.”
“They received fluids. They were fed a liquid nutrition diet. By [Tuesday], they were alert, active, doing well and hydrated,” she said.
A third fledgling from the nest has been observed flying overhead with its parents. The young falcons are between 5 and 6 weeks old and his is the time of year when they are leaving their nests, trying to fly for the first time.
Another female fledgling peregrine from downtown wasn’t as lucky as the pair from the Richardson Complex.
DEC personnel reported she apparently flew into a ninth-story window at the courthouse across the street from her home at the Statler Towers at high speed and was killed by the impact.
Peregrines can travel at speeds above 200 mph and are often considered one of the world’s fastest animals.
A maintenance worker at the courthouse found the bird on a lower roof of the building, noticed it was wearing a colored band and contacted the DEC at about 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The fledgling had been banded by DEC officials about a month ago and was one of three chicks born in the nest at the Statler this year.
Carl Skompinski, a local leader with the Peregrine Place organization, which monitors the birds’ local nesting spots, said there are challenges keeping tabs on the nest downtown.
“The Statler area is really hard to keep track of because there are so many buildings and so many ledges,” he said.
Skompinski leads a cadre of other falcon watchers around the city who try to make sure the young peregrines have some human support during development. Oftentimes, they gather during the fledging period to assist the birds, and the DEC, if a young chick runs into trouble.
The nest at Richardson is by far the lowest of any in the city, at roughly 45 feet off the ground – about 65 feet lower than a usual peregrine nesting spot. DEC personnel said fledglings usually rely on learning to fly from a higher point because if their wings fail them, they can often glide to a lower perch without landing on or near the ground.
At the Richardson Complex, the parents of the two rescued chicks took over an abandoned red tail hawk’s nest on the fourth story of Building 10, DEC personnel said.
The falcon family at the Richardson Complex nest is making news for the second time in recent weeks.
Last month, the fiercely protective mother of the peregrine family attacked a pair of security guards – yes, those same guards who called in Monday’s rescue – after they apparently got too close to the nest. One of the guards, whose head was cut by the mother peregrine’s claws, was forced to receive a rabies shot after the attack.