Young Duluth falcons almost ready to fly, naturalists say

A young  peregrine falcon flexes its wings on a bar outside its nest box near the top of the Greyson Plaza Hotel building Friday afternoon. The three young in the nest could begin flying any day now, said Katie Swanson, volunteer coordinator and naturalist at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. (Sam Cook photo)

The three young falcons hatched in downtown Duluth in late May could begin flying any day now, naturalists with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory said Friday.

The birds were hatched in a nest box attached near the roof of the Greysolon Plaza Hotel, 12 stories above Superior Street. The first bird hatched May 29 and the two others in the days shortly after that, said Katie Swanson, volunteer coordinator and naturalist at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

Swanson and others with Hawk Ridge are on duty most days at Lake Place Park, where they allow visitors to watch the nest box activities through spotting scopes.

On Thursday, one of the female young hopped out to a bar about a foot away from the nest box for the first time, Swanson said. The young often perch on bars outside the box to develop their balance and flap vigorously while keeping a firm grasp on the bars with their feet.

From there the young birds will jump and flap their way to the top of the nest box, getting acclimated to their surroundings and working up the strength and nerve to take their first flight. Today, I saw two birds atop the nest box at times. One could have have been an adult.

The adult female was coming and going, sometimes delivering freshly caught food — usually part of a pigeon or bluejay caught in midair — to the young.

Watching a young bird perched at the edge of the nest box, flapping mightily, peering down 12 stories to the streets below, reminds me of a bunch of middle school kids atop a cliff, trying to get brave enough to leap into a lake below.

An adult female  peregrine falcon leaves the nest box on the Greysolon Plaza Hotel on Friday as one of her young perches on a bar nearby.  The adults hunt pigeons, bluejays and other birds in the downtown area and bring food back to their three young. (Sam Cook photo)

This is the 10th year in a row that peregrine falcons have nested on the Greysolon Plaza building. The peregrine falcon population plummeted when DDT was widely used in agricultural practices. Once DDT was banned, the birds were reintroduced throughout the Upper Midwest with young raised in captivity. Now peregrines are plentiful again.

Here’s one more photo of a falcon from the Greysolon building today.

Ayoung  falcon flexes its wings while perched outside the nest box attached to the Greysolon Plaza building in downtown Duluth on Friday. (Sam Cook photo)

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