Officials from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) today banded and inspected the three young peregrine falcons nesting on the 15th Floor of the Rachel Carson State Office Building to ensure they are healthy and disease free before they enter their next stage of development — learning to fly.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure that these young falcons are free from any health issues or infestations so they are successful when they take their first flights in the next few weeks,” DEP Secretary John Quigley said. “To further ensure their safety, this year, the falcons were banded near the nest to reduce the amount of time and stress the banding causes to the both the fledglings and the adult falcons.”
Visitors to DEP’s website will be able to view the banding by PGC Biologist Art McMorris that was captured with the use of GoPro cameras in addition to the four video cameras already installed at the nest. The video will be available on DEP’s YouTube channel. In addition to inspecting the birds for disease, they are also weighed and their sex determined. Of the three young falcons that hatched this year, two are male and one is female. Alphanumeric bands are placed on their legs to help scientists track them when they leave the nest and identify them should they become injured or die.
The nest at the Rachel Carson State Office Building is the most successful in Pennsylvania, producing 61 young falcons since it was installed in 1996. Its success is also attributed to the annual falcon watch and rescue program where volunteers keep an eye on the young fledglings when they take their first flights and track them in case they run into trouble. It is a precarious time for the falcons since they fledge in an urban environment where buildings, powerlines and traffic can be challenging to their safety. There are upsides to an urban environment – an abundant supply of food such as pigeons, blue jays and other small birds. The city’s tall buildings also provide plenty of high perches and ledges that mimic cliffs were peregrine falcons commonly nest.
The falcons continue to draw an international audience as more than 34 million viewers have watched them online via the Falcon Cam. Visitors to the site can learn about their history and the chronology of the nest site, download educational lesson plans for students and view spectacular images of these magnificent birds.
While peregrine falcons were removed from the federal list of endangered species in 1999, they remain on Pennsylvania’s list. There are approximately 40 falcon nest sites across Pennsylvania, helping to reinvigorate their numbers.
It was scientist and Pennsylvania native Rachel Carson who is credited with identifying the dangers posed by DDT and its effect on birds which she outlined in her famous book, Silent Spring, published in 1962. addressed the dangers posed by DDT. The building where the falcon nest is located is named in her honor.
The Harrisburg Peregrine Falcon Education Program is a joint effort of DEP, PGC, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Commonwealth Media Services. For more information, visit www.dep.pa.gov/falcons.
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