Friday, May 7, 2010

Online again: Atlanta's nesting peregrine falcons!

Atlanta’s highest-flying falcons are parents again, and the world is watching. A Web camera at www.georgiawildlife.com provides frequent updates on the two adult peregrine falcons and their nest outside the 51st-floor offices of the McKenna, Long & Aldridge law firm in downtown Atlanta.

The inside look at these protected raptors is unique, said Jim Ozier, a Nongame Conservation Section program manager with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. “The public wouldn’t have any other opportunity to view a (peregrine) nest in Atlanta, and in prime time,” he said.

Peregrines typically mate for life. The pair nesting on the high-rise balcony has two young this year. The eggs hatched in mid-April. The nestlings will leave the nest at about 5 weeks old.

Jeff Haidet, chairman of the law firm, said the hatching of the falcons is “a sure sign of spring.” “I have a bird's-eye view of the nest from our offices, and am always fascinated to watch the progression of the babies from birth to flight,” Haidet said.

Peregrines were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species because of a successful population recovery effort, but Georgia still lists the birds as rare. Historically, the only known nest in the state was at Cloudland Canyon in the early 1940s. Peregrines were apparently absent for several years during and after the DDT era. Now, there are two known peregrine pairs nesting in Georgia, both in Atlanta. One of the adults at the second nest fledged from the nest on the law firm balcony, said Ozier, who bands the nestlings.

Peregrines are possibly the fastest animal in the world. Their dives, used to catch birds in flight, have been clocked at more than 200 mph.

The public has watched falcons nest at McKenna, Long & Aldridge for six years, thanks to the law firm and a grant from The Garden Club of Georgia. One of the first birds nesting there was released in Atlanta by the state, in partnership with Georgia Power Co. and Zoo Atlanta.

The new falcons will face an urban environment plump with pigeons and other winged prey but also packed with hazards such as traffic and windows. Two of the three peregrines hatched in 2008 were later treated for injuries. One of last year’s peregrines died from injuries, Ozier said.

To see this year’s nest, go to www.georgiawildlife.com and click “Conservation," then “Species of Concern” and the peregrine falcon Web cam link under the “Bird Conservation” label. (Or, go directly to the site at www.georgiawildlife.com/node/615.) The view shows the planter where the birds nest. Images are updated every 30 seconds. Frequently hit your computer’s refresh, or reload page, button.

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