The count is 24. That’s the number of chicks who have “graduated” from eggs in the peregrine falcon nest atop University Hall tower. The two latest downy alumni received state and federal identification bands May 27 as part of a tracking program run by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.As explained by Jennifer Norris, state research biologist, the rebounding of peregrine falcon numbers in the Midwest since their near-eradication some 30 years ago due largely to DDT exposure is a major success story.
“Today, the state has identified 48 breeding peregrine pairs. Now although that sounds like a lot, compare it to the number of robin nests we have in our backyards, and you’ll understand that we still have a way to go before the birds are no longer considered threatened,” she told the onlookers who crowded around a table set up for the procedure near the Student Union.
Sunny skies and balmy temperatures not only made the perfect backdrop for the banding, but the humid warmth may have made the normally squawking young birds just a bit more docile than usual.
The two birds, a female and a male, received the respective names Dr. Jane and Tennant — the former to honor Jane Forsythe, a longtime member of the Toledo Naturalists Association, a local organization that helped fund the UT Fal-Cam. The latter name is for nature writer Alan Tennant, whose 2004 book, On the Wing: To the Edge of the Earth With the Peregrine Falcon, won critical and popular acclaim.
The story of this year’s brood, hatched on May 8, includes some unfortunate drama. Belle, the female peregrine who has ruled the roost since the nest was established in 2007, actually produced four eggs this year. While she was brooding them in April, she was attacked by a female peregrine intruder attempting to establish her own territory in the nest.
In the ensuing bloody battle that eventually included the UT male bird, Allen, the eggs were scattered. Although he and Belle drove off the intruder and subsequently gathered the eggs back together, only two hatched.
Belle’s left eyelid was injured in the fight, but has since healed.
As the summer progresses, the young birds will learn to fly and hunt for themselves, which in rare instances can result in mishaps. If you see one of the birds on the ground, call the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1.800.WILDLIFE.