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Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Peregrine falcons set up nest in downtown SLC after 3-year hiatus

By Carter Williams, | Posted - May 23rd, 2018 @ 4:28pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A once familiar neighbor for downtown Salt Lake residents appears to have returned high above the city.

Wildlife officials noticed peregrine falcons had set up a nest atop One Utah Center, 201 S. Main, a little more than a week ago. A camera shows at least three eggs were laid and Russell Norvell, avian conservation coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the eggs could hatch any day because officials don’t know how long the nest has been there.

The bird’s eggs are typically incubated anywhere from 29 to 32 days and are typically laid in late April or early May, according to the DWR. Although the falcon wasn’t noticed until about last week, Norvell said this traditional timetable is why they expect the falcons to hatch in early June.

There are a little more than 1,600 breeding pairs of the species in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Defenders of Wildlife. The birds typically choose nesting spots deemed successful in the past, Norvell added.

The species was last seen nesting in downtown Salt Lake in 2015, although officials believe the birds may have been nesting in City Creek Canyon in between the past two downtown sightings based on observations in the canyon.

Nobody really knows why peregrine falcons returned to downtown Salt Lake this year. However, tall urban buildings are also very similar to the cliffs peregrine falcons traditionally nest at in the wild, Norvell explained.

“In many ways, this is an urban canyon setting and it’s really kind of familiar to peregrine,” he said. “It has a lot of elements it looks for in a good nesting spot. It’s high-towering cliffs with vertical faces. That means there’s not going to be a million predators coming in the deprive the nest and it has a good source of prey nearby — there’s all sorts of pigeons downtown and other birds.”

The largest difference between urban and natural settings is any possible disturbances. Norvell said the birds typically don’t like disturbance and there are people and vehicles downtown that can provide that.

The nestlings begin as “white puffballs” and become near adult-size birds with pin-feathers within a few weeks, Norvell added. The birds typically take their first flight about a month after they are hatched.

Peregrine falcons are also notoriously vicious in protecting their nests. However, since the nest is high above where most people would be downtown, both the birds and people should be OK.

“Most of us on the ground, we can just watch this incredible wild aerial predator — it’s one of the greatest symbols of wild birds — in the city,” Norvell said. “It’s also a great success story since these birds have been coming back from population depression from DDT (a compound once used in insecticides) for many years. It’s really great to have this interface of wild creatures occupying our cityscapes.”

Carter Williams

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