Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Real-Life Version of "It's a Wonderful Life"

On November 20th, WINC received an injured Peregrine Falcon that was found on the ground in Watertown. The bird had injuries caused by a probable gunshot wound. We had the bird x-rayed to check for fractured bones and gunshot pellets. Luckily, the gunshot did not break any bones, and there were no bullets or shotgun pellets remaining in her body. However, it did go completely through the wing and broke several critically-important primary flight feathers.

Peregrine Falcons are endangered in Wisconsin. Researchers band nearly all urban-nesting Peregrine Falcons. Since this bird was aleady banded, we were able to determine her identity. "Jesse," was hatched in 2008 in a nest box in Genoa, Wisconsin, near the Mississippi River. In 2010 she nested on the North Tower of Mayfair Mall and produced four chicks. The nest box is still on the roof top in hopes that the peregrines will return there to nest year after year.

We sutured Jesse's puncture and treated her with antibiotics and pain releivers. After the wounds healed, she needed one more procedure: she needed her broken feathers "imped." Imping is a falconry term that means splicing replacement feathers from a "donor" bird of the same species, into the broken feather shafts of the recipient. Without this procedure it would take Jesse an entire year to molt in replacements for her broken primary feathers, and without these feathers, she could barely fly and thus could not be released. Since we did not have any Peregrine Falcon feathers to use, we sent the bird to The Raptor Center in Minneapolis for the feather imping procedure. They implanted new feathers and returned the bird to us in a week.

On Thursday morning, December 22nd, I met WINC Wildlife Rehbilitator Chelsea Matson with "Jesse," Greg Septon, the Director of the Wisconsin Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project, and videographers from TV channels 6 and 12 at the North Tower of Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa.

When we arrived, we noticed Jesse's mate, "Polyo," on a ledge near the top of the building! Greg told us that Polyo continues to roost on the building and hunt nearby. When not nesting, female Peregrine Falcons tend to wander more than the males. With the assistance of Greg Septon, and permission from Mayfair Mall, we were able to take Jesse to the roof nest box for the release.

She flew beautifully and much to our delight, Polyo vocalized and joined Jesse in circling the building. They both landed on a ledge just below the roof. We'll keep our fingers crossed, and hope Jesse and Polyo return to nest on the roof of Mayfair's North Tower in the summer of 2011.

Guest Blogger C.D.

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