Banding Falcons Is No Easy Job Biologists in Pennsylvania are banding the young falcons on a state office building so they can track them. The birds' parents do not approve.
NPR logo

Banding Falcons Is No Easy Job

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/730564619/730564623" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Banding Falcons Is No Easy Job

Banding Falcons Is No Easy Job

Banding Falcons Is No Easy Job

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/730564619/730564623" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Biologists in Pennsylvania are banding the young falcons on a state office building so they can track them. The birds' parents do not approve.

NOEL KING, HOST:

If you want to get a young falcon out of its nest without the baby falcon's parents beating you with their wings, you are going to need a broom. At least, that's what the Pennsylvania Game Commission uses so they can track young falcons. WITF's Katie Meyer has the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS SQUAWKING)

ART MCMORRIS: All right, little guys. You ready for some fun?

KATIE MEYER, BYLINE: Game Commission biologist Art McMorris has been banding falcons on this Harrisburg, Pa., ledge for 15 years. His goal is straightforward - shimmy out an office building window, grab a nestling and stick it in a cardboard box to get a quick checkup and a leg band, all while avoiding its angry parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SCREECHING)

MEYER: The broom the biologists bring with them is a distraction so the falcons dive bomb it instead of the biologists' heads. It works most of the time.

MCMORRIS: We're not hurting their young. We're not hurting them. But, of course, they don't know that, so they will be flying around, trying to whack us.

MEYER: (Laughter).

MCMORRIS: It has happened. It has happened.

OK. So what do we have - oh, OK. I can tell just by looking that this is a female. She's a big girl.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SCREECHING)

MEYER: Just inside the window, McMorris weighs and draws blood from the largest nestling. She's bigger than her three brothers - about the size of a pigeon.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SQUAWKING)

MEYER: Peregrines have made nests on this 15th-floor ledge every year since 2000. Young, urban falcons have high mortality rates, especially in the first weeks they learn to fly. Renee Larry, a Department of Environmental Protection worker with a falcon tattoo on her chest, is part of a volunteer group that's been known to stop traffic to keep the birds out of trouble.

RENEE LARRY: And I had to stop the cars and throw my jacket over it and get it and save it. That was, like, my most memorable one. Last year, Red Girl was on top of Strawberry Square there on the glass. We had to get her down. Just different...

SUE HANNON: Green Girl was the most memorable for me.

LARRY: Oh, on the train station.

MEYER: The chicks are learning to fly now. And even though it's one of the more treacherous times in their lives, falcon watcher Sue Hannon says it's also the most exciting.

HANNON: It's like this is Christmas for me. I look forward to it that much.

MEYER: There are at least 40 known Peregrine nests in Pennsylvania. But just a few decades ago, there were none. In the 1940s, an explosion in the use of the pesticide DDT had the unintended consequence of wiping out virtually all the falcons in the eastern part of the country. The situation didn't come to public attention until biologist Rachel Carson published her 1962 book "The Silent Spring" (ph), which painted a picture of a world plagued by illness and death by pesticide.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SCREECHING)

MEYER: The falcons in Harrisburg don't know that, of course. But in their own way, they're paying tribute to Carson. The building where they're making their nests is named after her.

For NPR News, I'm Katie Meyer in Harrisburg.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.