Peregrine falcon babies banded

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The mother peregrine falcon leaves the nest where she cares for her four youngsters, who got game-commission bands yesterday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The mother peregrine falcon leaves the nest where she cares for her four youngsters, who got game-commission bands yesterday.
Posted: May 22, 2014

GRETA GREENBERGER exited the elevator on the 15th floor of the City Hall tower yesterday with announced anticipation.

Greenberger, City Hall's tour-guide director, was there to see some special tenants that she has affectionately nicknamed her "grandbabies."

Unlike most, Greenberger's "descendants" eat pigeons instead of hot dogs - they are peregrine falcons.

She visited them in the tower yesterday to witness the banding of four nestlings that were born about 30 days ago.

"This is so exciting, I can't believe that I get to see this!" Greenberger, 67, said of the banding, which allows officials to track the falcons. The birds are on the state's endangered-species list.

"They are really beautiful, you know," she added, "and this whole thing is just incredible."

The two girls and two boys are the offspring of one of 33 pairs of peregrine falcons that have mated across the state, according to F. Arthur McMorris, peregrine-falcon coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, who banded the birds.

Their parents began mating in the man-made nesting box in the tower in 2009, took a brief hiatus in 2010, but returned to the tower the following years, said Ed Mutzer, 70, game-commission volunteer.

Yesterday, McMorris removed each bird from the nest under adamant protest from their mother, who squawked loudly and torpedoed toward him. His only line of defense was a broom.

As McMorris examined the falcon chicks, each began squawking incessantly. McMorris assured falcon observers that the birds' deafening wails were not a sign of pain.

"That's just her alarm call," he said holding up one of the chicks. "She doesn't know what's go on. She is just alerting Mom and Dad that something funny is happening."

"My goal," he added, "is to make myself obsolete when, with the falcons, we can leave nature to its own devices."

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