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PEREGRINE FALCONS have used nesting locations in downtown Salt Lake City since 1984. This spring, like most, the falcons are using a nesting box located on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at South Temple and Main Street. If you're in downtown Salt Lake City, look up — if you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of these amazing birds.
MAY 13, 2014 — The peregrine falcon pair is currently nesting in the box, and the female has laid four eggs. Eggs take about one month to incubate. We're seeing a lot of the male falcon this year; he's shown some serious dedication to those eggs. We expect the eggs to begin hatching May 16–18. After the eggs hatch, activity at the nest will center around feeding the chicks (called "eyases").
Eyases fledge (begin to leave the nest) about 39 days after hatching. The first several days after leaving the nest are precarious. As the fledglings learn to fly, they can collide with downtown buildings and crash land on the ground or, worse, in street traffic. This is a busy time as both volunteers from the public and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources employees scramble to keep an eye on the fledglings and rescue them when they run into trouble.
JUNE 10, 2014 — We have three nestlings, and they're growing fast! We expect fledging to begin around June 24. If you want to be on the rescue team, attend the upcoming field trip.
Although the sexes are outwardly similar, there are a few differences. If you want to identify the adults more easily, here are a few tips.
The male falcon (called a tiercel or tercel), is generally one-fourth to one-third smaller in size than the female (usually just referred to as a falcon). Tiercels are typically darker, have broader malars (the dark wedge below the eye) and rounded tips.
The female falcon appears grayer, with narrow malars and pointy tips. The buff-colored area at the tip of her tail is wider than the male's.
Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) do not build nests from grass or twigs. Usually, they create a scrape (a shallow depression in the substrate) on ledges, cliffs, or — in this case — a high, protected spot on a downtown Salt Lake City building. Once a nesting site is established, it may be reused year after year, although alternative sites have been utilized as well.
Over the years, with the help of the Salt Lake City Peregrine Falcon Watchpost Team members, a surprisingly large number of birds have survived flight training and successfully learned to fly. From 1986 through 1990 and 1995, 11 of 14 young learned to fly and dispersed to the wild. From 2004 through 2009, 10 of 13 young successfully departed to wilder haunts. From 1991 through 1993, five of six young reached the flying stage and dispersed from a cliff nest site located just north of the downtown area.
Peregrines are hunters extraordinaire that prey almost exclusively on birds caught in mid-air. Considered one of the world's fastest animals, peregrines can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour during vertical dives. The pigeon population of downtown Salt Lake City provides ample food, but, through the years, dozens of other bird species have fallen prey to these magnificent flyers.
The peregrine falcon was removed from the federal Endangered Species List in 1999. The Utah peregrine population is recovering statewide, and the species continues to enjoy protection under Utah State Code and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Two of the three North American subspecies can be seen in Utah. The continental form, subspecies anatum, is a Utah nester that can be seen year round. The tundra form, subspecies tundrius, is a migrant that can be seen during the spring and fall.
Help support peregrine falcons and other raptors in Utah.
Contact Bob Walters for details: BobWalters@utah.gov or 801-209-5326.