Friday, July 31, 2009

Peregrine Falcons in Lower Manhattan

The building on the left in this photo is 55 Water Street in Lower Manhattan. Every year, since 1999, a pair of Peregrine Falcons have nested on an outside ledge on the 14 floor of this building!

Many Peregrine Falcons have settled in large cities lured by the cliff-like topography of high rise buildings, and the plethora of available prey. They build nests on cathedrals, skyscraper window ledges, and the towers of suspension bridges. In Lower Manhattan 55 Water Street seems to be a favorite perennial location.

The crow-sized falcon is admired for its incredible speeds, which are seldom exceeded by any other bird. Plunging from tremendous heights, the peregrine falcon can reach up to 180 mph in pursuit of prey. It feeds primarily on birds, which it takes on the wing.


Peregrine Falcons were placed on both the Federal and State Endangered Species lists in the early 1970's. Their numbers were severely decimated by post WWII use of DDT pesticides, which was later found to alter the reproductive behavior of the falcons and cause eggshell thinning. The release of young captive bred birds, from 1974-1988, helped lead to their return as a nesting species. Peregrines first returned to nest on two bridges in New York City in 1983, and the population has grown steadily since that time. By 2003 there were close to 50 pairs present statewide, and New York City now has probably the largest urban population of peregrine falcons anywhere!

The Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEP, monitors and assists the falcons by placing wooden nest boxes filled with gravel at many of the sites to increase productivity. If you look closely at the photo above you can see the falcon sitting in a nest box placed on the ledge of the 55 Water Street building.

The DEP also bands young Peregrines to provide important information on the bird's movements, which is essential to understanding their habitat needs year-round. The nestlings are removed from the nest box, or natural nest site, for a short time and two colored metal bands are placed on the birds legs. These bands are uniquely lettered and numbered so that if the Falcons are observed later, or found injured or dead, they can be identified. When the birds are banded they are also checked for overall health and condition.




On May 20, 2009 wildlife biologist Chris Nadareski banded the 2 male and 2 female fledglings from the peregrine falcon nest site at 55 Water Street. This year the 2 male fledglings were named by the children of the Vigiano brothers, one of whom was a police officer and the other a fireman, who were both killed when they responded to the attack on World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The first male fledgling was named was named “Levi” after Cpl. Chris Levi, a triple amputee Iraqi war veteran from Long Island, and the second was named “Volari”, the Italian word that translates as "flying."


The 2 females were named by Mrs. Scanio’s 3rd grade class at the Unqua Elementary School in the Massapequa Long Island school district. The first female fledgling was named “Charlotte” after the student’s favorite character in “Charlotte’s Web, and the second was named “Faith,” to honor the fact that these children have faith in themselves that they can do anything.

Hopefully these new fledgling will survive to mature, mate and reproduce, and the cycle of returning the numbers of falcons back to the wilds of New York City can continue.

Falcons mate for life and generally return to the same nesting area. Every spring a web cam at 55 Water Street, in Lower Manhattan, follows the return of the falcons to their nest and watches as they hatch their eggs. The web cam is presently offline until next year, but when I learn of the return of the falcons in 2010 I'll blog about it then so that we'll all be able to watch the new cycle.

If you'd like to learn more about how to restore Peregrine Falcons, and other endangered birds of prey, to your area, please visit the Peregrine Fund web site

24 comments:

aliceinparis said...

Pat, what a wonderful post! I learned things I did not know about these beautiful birds. I am so happy they are being protected and nurtured. Imagine if it was your office the falcons nested outside. How extraordinary:)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

How interesting. You find the most unusual things to blog about - things most people wouldn't know about otherwise.

black eyed susans kitchen said...

Pat, I remember reading about this a while back. I think that the NYTimes covered the story. They are beautiful birds, and it never ceases to amaze me how the flora and fauna exist with persistence in such an inhospitable environment. It all just softens the city. Great story.
♥, Susan

Marilyn said...

There is a pair of Falcons that have nested on a building in Binghamton, NY. about 20 miles from here. Every once in awhile there is an article about them in the Binghamton Paper. Very interesting!
Have a great day!
Love,
Marilyn

Junie Moon said...

Isn't it amazing how the birds persevere despite all the man-made developments? Reminds me of the book Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park which I loved.

~Cheryl said...

This fills my heart with hope and happiness!

Vee said...

There's a vague memory of seeing a television special on the Peregrine Falcons in NYC. It was very interesting. I have been in on the webcam before, too, which I found fascinating. Thanks for the updates and the reminders. I think they are all beautifully named.

Just a little something from Judy said...

I learn so much every time I visit this blog. I found this post about these birds very fascinating!

Joyce said...

They use to let a huge falcon fly around the stadium in Atlanta before the Falcons started to play and it was the prettiest. They use to show it up close on the big screen TV in the dome. I found your Falcon info interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Joyce

CatHerder said...

Theyre so beautiful!

Willow said...

Very unexpected. But then, skyscrapers do look like cliffs...

Tracy said...

Once again, Pat, you share that little known, the unusual, the wonderful... Just so interesting this post. And those falcons are so mysterious and beautiful...*sigh*... Loving that skyline too! :o) Happy weekend ((HUGS))

Cori G. said...

Hi Pat,

I remember seeing a documentary on Tv about the Peregrines in Manhattan. I think it's so interesting how animals have adapted to live in our surroundings...or have we adapted to living in theirs? The babies are so cute and fuzzy.

I hope you have a great Saturday!!!

xoxo Cori

Melissa Miller said...

Oh Pat I just really enjoyed reading this heartfelt story.
Thank you for telling us about them. How neat that they build on buildings. The babies are so precious and the adults are stunning. I adore any and all kinds of animals. Loved this post!

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Wonderful post..This is so lovely and interesting..Thanks for sharing..Unseen Rajasthan

Beverly said...

Pat, I so enjoyed this post. I think falcons are so magnificent.

We are doing so well in trying to protect and preserve in so many areas, but we still have a lot of areas we need to improve.

Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

Pat, your blog posts are always fascinating! Loved reading about the Falcons.

Gracie said...

Just back from my vacation and trying to catching up on what happened in the Big Apple while I was away. Thanks for sharing, as always.
Gracie at http://mylittleplace.blog.com

steviewren said...

Pat, you should be named NY city ambassador of good will and tourism. I mean it. This was another interesting post about an aspect of the city that none of us outlanders would ever hear of but for you. Thanks.

Penny @ The Comforts of Home/Lavender Hill Studio said...

What an interesting post! Those falcons are beautiful.

Lisa's RetroStyle said...

I'm so glad the Peregrines are doing so well. I love the patterns on their feathers and those babies are sooo cute! It's really cool seeing wild things adapt to the big cities.

Lisa said...

I LOVE your posts about the cool birdies that reside in the 5 boroughs! I'm already dead set on checking out those parrots, so now mission number two will be the falcons :)

BTW, if we don't beat the Red Sox this weekend, I'll be thoroughly disgusted, seriously! Our pitching has been kind of awful as of late! I might be going to Friday's game *knock wood*

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

I love the city falcons! When the whole Central Park West falcon brouhaha started I was fascinated and couldn't stop following the stories (and the web cam that was set up). Two summers ago I was shopping in the Union Square farmer's market and there was a gorgeous one just hanging out on the lamppost. This BDC (Before Digital Camera ;-) so I couldn't capture the moment. It was WILD (literally!).

Susie Q said...

I too think I have read about this...and such a ownderful story.
I love that so much nature exisits in one of the largest urban spaces in the world.
Love,
Sue