Streams

Raptor Chicks Add Grace Note, Guano to City Bridge Heights

Monday, June 04, 2012

WNYC
Two of four newly hatched peregrines. (Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.)

Peregrines prefer peaks. In New York City, that means the flat tops of tall bridges. Workers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Department of Environmental Protection and others donned safety harnesses and scaled the city’s bridges to count the peregrines’ hatchlings.

The MTA, always casting about for ways to improve its perennially embattled image, has, in recent years, embraced and promoted its role as Haven of Hatcheries. The authority has allowed the city DEP to build shelters for the birds atop its bridges, and to let city conservationists go into them once a year and band the newborn birds they find. The shelters are no-frills affairs with guano-speckled roofs. And the banding, according to conservationist Chris Nadareski, doesn't hurt the birds — though it must be said, those chicks don't seem pleased.

This year's total of newborn falcons on three bridges operated by the MTA: seven. Their wide-eyed adorableness on a scale of 1 to 10: 10. Interesting stat: when diving for prey, peregrines can exceed 200 miles per hour, making them the fastest birds in the world. It also puts them in sync with the city's unofficial motto: "Move swiftly or starve."

New York City is home to more than 20 pairs of peregrine falcons. Two of the newest ones are called Lief and Skye. The birds were nearly wiped out in the 1960s because of pesticides, and remain on the state endangered list. But, thanks in part to the MTA's hospitality, it is increasingly common to see a raptor in search of a fish wheeling in the sky above the harbor.

Hence the video's closing invitation + warning: "Look for the peregrine falcons...but not while you're driving."

Watch video of the peregrine count below.

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