For the birds: Gulf Tower's two peregrine falcon chicks pass physical
Tasha 2 watches alongside reporters and camera crews the banding of her two peregrine falcon chicks yesterday at the Gulf Tower.
Dr. Pilar Fish, of the National Aviary, checks the eyes of a 29-day-old female chick. She declared the birds to be in great health.
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With flapping wings, loud squawking and engaged talons, Tasha 2 did noble battle atop the Gulf Tower yesterday to protect her two peregrine falcon chicks -- and even drew blood from a National Aviary official's finger.
But state Game Commission officials captured the bold bird's two chicks so aviary officials could perform full medical examinations. The commission then banded the chicks.
After the loud ordeal, the chicks were returned to their nest on the 37th floor of the Gulf Tower outside the Make-A-Wish Foundation offices, and Tasha 2 was released to resume her maternal duty.
Throughout the episode, Louie, the papa peregrine, dive-bombed at officials and put on dramatic aerial displays.
The two chicks now wear fancy bird bracelets -- colorful leg bands bearing large letters and numbers to identify them.
And Dr. Pilar Fish, the aviary's director of veterinary medicine, declared the chicks robust and healthy.
Next week, the team will repeat the process atop the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland, where Dorothy and her new mate, E2, have spawned three chicks.
Both nests can be viewed on webcams at www.aviary.org.
Game Commission and aviary officials also are searching local bridges for nests and plan to band any chicks they find.
It's all part of a state and national campaign to restore the peregrine population that declined drastically decades ago due to DDT contamination, which prompted their national designation as an endangered species.
Since a DDT ban went into effect in 1973, the peregrine population has increased nationally, but peregrine falcons remain endangered in Pennsylvania.
Todd Katzner, aviary director of conservation and field research, said the state has 24 peregrine pairs, with 21 of them living in nests atop buildings mostly in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Last year, 48 chicks were hatched statewide.
But only three of the 24 pairs live in natural habitats. Once the number of pairs living in natural habitats climbs to 22, the bird no longer will be endangered in Pennsylvania, he said.
The Gulf Tower, where peregrines have nested since 1991, was one of the first nesting sites established in the state. It has produced 61 chicks, including the two banded yesterday.
Banding allows the birds to be tracked and identified.
Peregrines are the world's fastest animals that kill other birds in flight, diving at speeds that can reach 100 mph. During mating displays the speed of their dives can approach 200 mph.
Beth Fife, the wildlife conservation officer who retrieved the chicks and Tasha 2 at the Gulf Tower said Louie was the most aggressive male she'd ever encountered.
Dr. Katzner ended up with a bloody finger while holding Tasha 2, but Ms. Fife escaped unscathed.
First Published May 20, 2008 12:00 am