Falcons tagged in Harrisburg provide insight into health of bird population

    In Pennsylvania, it’s a good time to put ID bracelets around the legs of newly hatched peregrine falcons.

    An annual event in Harrisburg, underway this week, sheds some light on the state’s efforts to help a once-devastated species recover.

    Eyes on the nest

    Perched upon a state government office building in Harrisburg, several stories up, is a peregrine falcon nest. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has been watching it since about 2000.

    A webcam is trained on the ledge and every year biologists tag the baby falcons just before they’re ready to leave the nest. But Commission biologist Art McMorris says such efforts can only do so much to help the birds’ population recover.

    Sixty percent of the falcons that have hatched atop the state office building either died or nearly died before being rescued from typical urban hazards.

    “They were found on the street where they would have gotten run over, they flew into glass, things that don’t happen out at cliff ledges,” said McMorris.

    What initially nearly wiped out the peregrine falcon in our region of the country was the use of toxic pesticides.

    The species is still on the state’s endangered list, but McMorris says he thinks it may be removed within the next decade.

    The falcon program, like the state’s Game Commission, is funded with revenue from fees and fines, not state tax dollars.

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