Monday, May 9, 2011

Falcons of Lower Manhattan

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This past weekend I went on a fun walking tour and falcon sighting trip in lower Manhattan led by the New York City Audubon.  This was my second trip with NYC Audubon (read about my first last summer here) and it was just as much fun as the first.  The trip focused on visiting nesting spots of Peregrine Falcons, but we looked out for other birds along the way.  We walked part of the Brooklyn Bridge then meandered down the Financial District to Water Street to see a pair of nesting Falcons and on the walk we also so an American Kestrel and a few pigeons and warblers.  Peregrine Falcons are fascinating birds to watch, especially in New York City.  They are the fastest animals on our planet and their speeds range from 99 to 273mph.  They live in pairs as nesting couples and usually require quite a lot of territory per couple, which makes New York so unusual because there are 16 nesting pairs in a radius usually only covered by 1 nesting pair.  New York is a great place for them though because there is plenty of food like pigeons, swallows, starlings and many other small birds for them to prey on.  The tall buildings also remind them of their natural habitat (historically high cliffs).  In the 1970's Falcons were placed on the endangered species list due to a dramatic drop in population due to the spraying of chemical substances like DDT.  DDT caused the falcon's eggs to become very weak and when the birds would sit on the eggs they would crush the eggs bringing the population to a sudden decline.  Luckily the birds have made a comeback and the first two falcon pairs moved to New York City in 1983 and now there are 16.  The Peregrine Falcons, much like the condors are a wonderful example of successful conservation efforts.  When most people think of New York the pigeon comes to mind, but these amazing birds are also a big part of New York City's ecosystem and will be making many more appearances on my blog!  The birds make a very cool contrast to the skyline of New York, especially in lower Manhattan which is a cool mix of old bridges, beautiful municipal structures and new office buildings. I leave this Friday for Rwanda and Uganda and then off to the Galapagos in mid July, but in between the trips and later this summer  I will be focusing on learning more about them and photographing them in my neighborhood of Lower Manhattan!  Fore more information on the Peregrine Falcon's of New York check out NYC Department of Environmental Protections.

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3 comments:

Manwich said...
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Out walking the dog said...

The return of raptors to NYC is thrilling. I watch the red-tails in Riverside Park & Harlem. Beautiful.

Matthew said...

Got some kestrels, too, I see. Our smallest raptor, and under-appreciated compared to the big boys (although, in raptors, females are larger).

What's interesting about the peregrines is that the ones we see are mostly mutts: the east coast subspecies was exterminated by the plague of DDT; the captive breeding programs used birds from other subspecies, mixing up the genes. They are completely wild birds, even though there was some domestication involved.

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