For Immediate Release
Sergio Harding, Nongame Bird Conservation Coordinator, 804-367-0143
NOTE: This news release was distributed on 6/20/2011. The information below may no longer be the most up-to-date information available, or may pertain solely to events that occurred in the past. Please contact the person listed as the contact person for this release for the most current information.
Richmond Peregrine Falcon’s First Flight Ends Tragically
The much anticipated first flight of a Richmond peregrine falcon chick has come to an unfortunate and premature end as the bird died from injuries resulting from a collision with a downtown building.
The young female bird was this year's sole offspring of a pair of state-threatened falcons that have been nesting on a tall building in downtown Richmond since 2003. The nest site is monitored and managed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and the pair's nesting cycle is chronicled annually online through VDGIF's Richmond Falcon Cam. The chick was banded on May 25th and, as in previous years, a pen was assembled to keep her confined to the nest box area. The pen serves to control the timing of the bird's departure from the nest and to prevent premature fledging attempts. The pen door was opened remotely on the morning of June 16th as VDGIF staff and volunteers positioned themselves in strategic downtown locations to monitor the falcon's first and subsequent flights. This Fledge Watch event is coordinated annually as a ‘safety net' for young falcons that may experience problems during their fledging attempts.
Whereas in past years young falcons have left the nest box ledge within hours of the pen door being opened, this year's falcon did not take her first flight until the morning of June 20th. Later that morning, a VDGIF biologist watched as the bird took a strong, level flight northward, accompanied by a parent, and disappeared from sight behind a building. The biologist was later joined by a dedicated Fledge Watch volunteer, who spotted the young falcon perched on a building a few blocks to the northeast of its natal site. Following a brief preening session, the bird took a short flight and then circled back. It skittered some 20 ft down the glass facade of a nearby building, but was able to regain altitude. Unfortunately it then flew headlong into another glass-sided building, the James River III, at approximately 12:30 p.m., and dropped straight down. The falcon's flight path indicates that it likely did not see the building, which was reflecting sky and clouds.
The young falcon was retrieved from the rooftop of an abutting building, where it landed approximately 10 stories below the collision point. VDGIF veterinarian Megan Kirchgessner arrived on the scene and confirmed that the bird was dead, citing head trauma from the collision as the cause and stating that the falcon likely died immediately upon impact with the building.
Peregrine falcon chicks face many hazards in cities—only about 50% survive their first year—underscoring the need to monitor the progress young urban falcons make as they fledge. The VDGIF would like to thank all of the volunteers who have contributed their time and enthusiasm to the Fledge Watch this year, as well as all those who have followed the young falcon's progress through the Falcon Cam and media reports.