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RETURN OF 'EVICTED' PEREGRINE FALCON SURPRISES WILDLIFE EXPERTS WHO HAD NURSED THE INJURED BIRD

A female peregrine falcon, driven out of town last spring by two other peregrines from the rooftops of downtown Buffalo, has apparently returned and is determined to stake out her territory on some prime rooftop property.

A federal worker at the Delaware Avenue office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service called authorities last week to say she was being stared at by a "very tame and strange-looking bird" on the sill outside her window. The bird had two bands on its legs.

"I couldn't believe it when the caller told us of the colors and numbers on the bird's leg bands," said Diane Obusek, wildlife administrator for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "At first, I assumed from the physical description she gave that it was one of the more common falcon breeds we have in the area."

As it turned out, it was a peregrine falcon. The band identified the falcon as the very same bird "evicted" from Buffalo last spring.

"She had flown to Buffalo last March with her mate in a reproductive state," said Ms. Obusek, "not knowing that a territorial prerogative had already been established by a nesting peregrine couple in the area.

"They beat her up and drove off her mate. The egg she had just hatched was later found smashed on the pavement below."

Police found the battered peregrine on Eagle Street, called the SPCA and were told to cover the falcon with a box until help arrived.

"The two bands on her leg told us she was born in 1995 on top of the Commodore Motor Inn in Toledo, Ohio, and her mother was born in St. Catharines, Ont.," Ms. Obusek said. "As far as our research can tell, her mother, named Nellie, was Ohio's first breeding peregrine falcon arriving there on her own from St. Catharines."

After weeks of care by the SPCA and the veterinary attention to her injured claws and legs, the unnamed peregrine was released with the help of the state Department of Environmental Conservation last April 8 from an isolated spot on Beaver Island.

"I always wondered what happened to her," Ms. Obusek said. "We never knew if she flew back to Toledo or tried to find her mate, or what, but now she's shown up again just in time for the new mating season. That normally starts in January so she's a little early. But maybe she just wants first dibs on a good nesting place."

She said she and the staff at the SPCA felt elated.

"It proved that our efforts with our rehabilitation program are successful," she said. "This bird was down and injured, and through our program, she is alive and back in the wild. Hopefully, she will breed again next year as an endangered species, and that makes it all worth it."

"It's a great thing that she's back," said Mark Kandel, senior wildlife biologist for the Department of Environmental Conservation. "It proves the rehabilitation was successful and she survived."

He said no one can be sure at this point if she has a mate and plans to do some serious homesteading or if she's "just passing through."

The DEC will now start observing with volunteers working in various downtown buildings, with members of the Buffalo Ornithological Society and a volunteer from the Aquatic Ecology program at McKinley Vocational High School.

"The best-case scenario is that the resident pair, who were here before, will return, and the 'Toledo' falcon will find another territory where they won't be in conflict and create the same problem we had last spring," he said.

He explained that "repetitive observation" will be the key to finding out what "Toledo" will do.

Anyone downtown who sees a "crow-sized bird with a raptor, or hooked shaped bill," as opposed to a straight bill, should call his office at 851-7010 and report the sighting.

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