Young falcon survives harsh spring atop the Mayo Building
The pair of peregrine falcons nesting above the Mayo Building battled spring storms, including some heavy snow in April, to give the female’s four eggs a shot at survival. Fortunately, one egg hatched, and during an event this morning at Mayo Clinic, the chick received a fitting name: “Blizzard.”
The name of the three-week-old female was drawn at random by Logan, a 12-year-old patient, who during an earlier visit to the Mayo campus had become fascinated with the hospital’s peregrine falcon program.
Over the past three decades, Mayo has worked with the Midwest Peregrine Society to help restore the falcon’s presence in the region. A total of 57 falcons have fledged from Mayo since the program began; another 32 captive-bred birds have been released from its rooftops.
As a result of conservation efforts, like the one happening at Mayo, the population of peregrine falcons has begun to soar. The species, once considered endangered due to the widespread use of chemicals post-WWII, has made a full recovery in less than 30 years.
“There is no other species that has bounced back to that degree in such a short time period,” said Jackie Fallon with the Midwest Peregrine Society.
Blizzard’s parents, Hattie and Orton, have held onto the Mayo-built nest since 2016. Last year, Hattie — named in honor of Hattie Damon Mayo, the wife of Dr. Will Mayo — laid four eggs that later hatched. All four, however, died after being exposed to some form of poison (Mayo stresses that poisons for pest control are not used on the Rochester campus).
Thankfully, Fallon said, the parents did not eat enough toxins to impede their chances of reproducing. On Wednesday, their newborn chick was temporarily removed from the nest and banded. The banding will allow researchers to follow her progress once she is ready to fly.
“Banding has told us we have had peregrine falcons from Minnesota migrate down to Lima, Peru — 4,500 miles away — and do a fantastic job with survival,” said Fallon. “And so, the banding gives up some very valuable information into how the species is doing.”
Blizzard’s egg was the only one to hatch this season and, already, Fallon said the young falcon appears to be a fighter. It is an attribute this bird of prey will need if it is to survive when it ventures outside the nest in a few weeks. Three in four peregrine falcons do not make it past the first year.
Sean Baker is a Rochester journalist and the founder of Med City Beat.
Photography by William Forsman