Our Falcons Have Flown The Coop

This summer, a pair of peregrine falcons hatched four chicks on a ledge outside the 25th floor of the Christian Science Church Administration Building in Boston. Parents and offspring left the nesting box around Aug. 1. The parents will stay around Boston all year. Without babies to raise, they will wander far afield instead of staying by the nest. The young birds, though, have migrated, perhaps as far as South America. But they took a few unexpected side trips first.

When young falcons are about ready to fly, they exercise their wings by flapping them up and down a lot, says Tom French of the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Commission. He speculates that while the chicks exercised their wings on the high ledge, gusts of wind caught them and blew them off. They weren't strong enough to fly back.

The Church Center's security staff frequently found stranded chicks on the Church Plaza and nearby streets. They would place the chick in a box with air holes, and call Mr. French. He would return the bird to its nest or take it to the Fish and Wildlife Office for observation. One chick even wandered into a nearby parking garage.

"It's quite an unusual scene to have a peregrine falcon, known for high speed in the skies, sitting on the hood of a car two stories underground," French says.

In spite of their mishaps, all four chicks eventually became accomplished flyers and left home. French expects the parent birds to return to their nesting site around March 1. Once a nest is established, peregrine falcons return to it year after year. If all goes well, a new brood will be hatched in May.

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