Nesting falcons halt Green Tree water tank work

Endangered species perch


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This bird of prey has become a bird of delay.

A project to rehabilitate Pennsylvania American Water's Green Tree storage tank has been put on hold after discovery of nesting peregrine falcons on the tower, a company official said Monday.

The nest is on a support beam under the 2.5 million-gallon tank, which had been drained so its interior could be sandblasted and repainted, spokeswoman Josephine Posti said. The mother falcon is visible to traffic on the Parkway West, she said.

Workers noticed the nest about two weeks ago and summoned the water company's environmental consultant. The Pennsylvania Game Commission also visited the site, she said, and confirmed the presence of peregrine falcons, an endangered species under Pennsylvania law.

The project was halted so the nest would not be disturbed. The water company expects the birds to be tenants until sometime in July, when they will move on and the rehabilitation work will resume.

"It's not unusual," Ms. Posti said. "They've got a history of these unusual urban locations for nesting."

Peregrine falcons also have nested in recent years atop the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland and the Gulf Tower in Downtown.

According to the National Aviary, the peregrine falcon is recognized as the fastest animal on the planet in its hunting dive, which involves soaring to a great height and diving at speeds upward of 200 mph. Its worldwide populations were devastated in the 1960s and 1970s by pesticides, including DDT.

Ms. Posti said she didn't know how many falcons were being hatched on the tower. Game commission officials could not be reached Monday.

The 180-foot storage tank was built in 1952 and renovated in 1984 and 1999. The project calls for interior sandblasting and repairs and repainting inside and out. The exterior will be repainted in its current sky blue with a white stripe and "Green Tree" lettered in blue on the stripe.

Pennsylvania American is spending $16.5 million in the state this year to build nine storage tanks and rehabilitate 14 others, including two in South Fayette and one in Liberty.

Ms. Posti said the delayed completion of work on the Green Tree tank is not expected to disrupt water service.

Birds have been active newsmakers in the Pittsburgh area this spring.

A pair of bald eagles took up residence near the Glenwood Bridge in Hays in February and have drawn onlookers to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail near the Keystone Iron and Metal scrap yard.

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Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868.


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