Widowed peregrine falcon cares for 3 chicks on downtown Salt Lake skyscraper

May 30, 2023, 10:31 AM | Updated: 2:29 pm

Mature bird stands with chicks...

A mature male falcon is caring for three chicks after the female in the pair was hit by a car. (Utah's DWR)

(Utah's DWR)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah wildlife enthusiasts are hopeful that three peregrine falcon chicks will be able to successfully fledge from a downtown Salt Lake City skyscraper next month after their mother was struck and killed by a car shortly before the tiny birds hatched.

The mother falcon’s carcass was discovered in early May, a few days before the birds began to hatch at the top of One Utah Center, 201 S. Main, according to Bob Walters, a volunteer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources after he retired as the agency’s watchable wildlife program coordinator in 2016.

He explained that there aren’t many known examples of a male falcon, known as a tiercel, taking over, though it’s possible it happens more often out in the wild. Yet the father quickly began taking care of the nestlings up at the top of the building.

“Things are going accordingly,” he told KSL.com Friday. “We had our doubts, as you can imagine … and, to this point, he’s taking care of them. He’s getting food in and feeding, and everything seems to be going — cross our fingers — OK. We’ll just have to follow this out and kind of see where it ends up, but we hope to ultimately get all three kids up in the air to stay.”

Falcons typically mate for life, as noted by PBS. When they reproduce, it’s not uncommon for falcons to nest at the top of skyscrapers, which experts believe is because they offer conditions similar enough to their natural cliff-based habitat out in the wild.

In fact, Walters says peregrine falcons typically bounce back and forth between downtown Salt Lake City and its foothills based on trends he’s tracked. Wildlife biologists first documented a successful fledgling in 1986 and the last one was in 2014, though there have been a few attempts since then.

The planning is now underway to help make this year’s attempt at One Utah Center successful. The building manager set up cameras, which the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources began streaming live on Tuesday, People can watch the tiercel and his three little nestlings.

Falcon chicks, or eyases, typically begin to attempt fledging about five to six weeks after hatching, meaning that the three eyases at the building should begin to make this attempt sometime around June 13 to June 20, give or take a week or so, Walters said. He and other volunteers are planning to flank the perimeter of the building during what he calls “hell week” to help the eyases in case they land on the street or sidewalk.

If an eyas is deemed to be uninjured, it will be placed back at the top of the building. If it survives but show signs of injury, it will be sent to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for an evaluation to see if the bird is able to return to the wild.

Walter adds that if anyone does see an eyas on the ground, they should alert a nearby volunteer, who will be out with wildlife capture equipment, binoculars and possibly safety vests on. People can also contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources at 801-538-4700. He’s also hopeful that more alert signage can be posted in the area over the next few weeks.

“We want to be there to save their little lives before the worst might occur,” he said. “The ideal situation is to get the adults, in this case the adult, to essentially train them to fly and to hunt on their own.”

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Widowed peregrine falcon cares for 3 chicks on downtown Salt Lake skyscraper