Peregrine falcon chick passes physical, but not with flying colors
May 29, 2015 11:32 PM
The 19-day-old peregrine falcon chick is observed during its first exam at the Cathedral Of Learning.
Robert Wagner, veterinarian with the University of Pittsburgh, uses a stethoscope during his examination of 19-day-old peregrine falcon chick hatched to Dorothy.
Dorothy, the 16-year-old peregrine falcon, sits atop the Cathedral of Learning.
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The lone peregrine falcon chick to hatch this spring in the 40th floor nest on the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning did not pass its physical with flying colors Friday morning.
But it did pass.
Despite being judged developmentally slow, weak and lousy with lice, mites and blood-sucking flies, the chick has no structural deformities, according to a university veterinarian and a Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife biologist. They determined the young falcon has a reasonable chance to survive in the wild.
Peregrine falcon chick gets physical
Peregrine falcon chick gets physical, he's weak, developmentally slow and lousy with lice, mites and blood-sucking flies, but they found no structural deformities and determined it has a reasonable chance to survive in the wild. (Darrell Sapp)
Given that prognosis, F. Arthur McMorris, the game commission’s peregrine program coordinator, attached identification bands to the male bird’s legs and returned it to its nest on the building ledge as its 16-year-old mother, Dorothy, ancient by falcon standards, swooped close and squawked loudly.
“We’ve determined the bird is developing slowly but we’re banding it and putting it back in the nest,” said Mr. McMorris, who acknowledged that raising the bird at a wildlife rehabilitation center and keeping it in captivity was a real consideration. “We’re going to continue to keep a close eye on it.”
The National Aviary has a live video camera focused on the nest, and regular observers have noted a series of developmental issues displayed by the chick, including difficulties sitting up, turning over when lying on its back, and splayed legs. Friday’s examination by Mr. McMorris and Robert Wagner, a University of Pittsburgh veterinarian, revealed the chick weighed 550 grams, less than expected for a 19-day-old male peregrine.
Dr. Wagner examined the bird and said the chick’s feathers showed extensive damage from parasites, and it exhibited weakness in the way it sat and grabbed with its talons. Blood was drawn from the bird to test for anemia and viruses. Results will be available within the week.
“It’s a tough call,” Mr. McMorris said of the decision to put the bird back in the nest. “But the nice thing is we have a camera on the nest and now we have a baseline medical assessment that will help us make decisions down the road.”
The chick is the 43rd hatched by Dorothy, who has nested high on the gothic Oakland landmark each year since 2001. The other three eggs Dorothy laid this year did not hatch, a sign her fertility is on the wane.
A live view of Dorothy’s 40th-floor nest is available at the National Aviary’s Falcon Cam at aviary.org/PF-NestCam1.
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