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Encounters with Banded Falcons

(Excerpted from Glenn Stewart’s presentation to the 2010 Raptor Research Foundation)

Bird Banding is a key element of the educational effort because it gives people a REASON to search for peregrines. When they see one, they go out of their way to determine if it is wearing bands. I use a VID band in combination with a lock on US Fish and Wildlife Service band so that individuals may be identified through a spotting scope. In addition, I place red, yellow, or blue, colored tape over the US Fish and Wildlife Service band at the nest camera sites to give camera watchers and fledge watch team members an extra advantage distinguishing among the individuals.

My goal is to learn more about nest site tenacity, the longevity of falcons, and about juvenile dispersal in our area through bird banding. But, to the network of people who make a pastime of observing peregrine falcons in the Bay Area, it as a treasure hunt—they just want to find birds and be the first person to read the bands. That works fine for me! They have fun—I receive data.

Since I use highly readable VID bands, I have received reports of many band encounters from members of the public. Here are examples:

A female peregrine that was released at a Muir Beach hack site in 1998 nested for several years in front of a nest camera on a building in Redwood shores.

A male that was released the next year (1999) at a San Gregorio hack site, nested in front of a nest camera in San Francisco for several years.

A female hacked at my Long Marine Laboratory workplace in 2003, was next seen in 2008 wintering along the San Francisco Bay at Sunnyvale. (46/D)

Another male released at my Long Marine Laboratory workplace in 2006, was the 2008 breeding male at the San Jose City Hall nest camera site. (Carlos)

A female that fledged in 2007 from a nest camera site in San Jose has nested the last two years on a bridge near Emeryville. (Espie)

Her brother from the same 2007 nest is the breeding male today on another bridge in nearby Alameda.

A 2009 male from the nest camera eyrie in San Jose has been observed from April to September throughout his molt to adult plumage perched and hunting at Don Edwards Refuge near Milpitas, a distance of 13 miles from his nest to his current location.

A 2010 male from the downtown San Francisco eyrie was just trapped about one month ago at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory banding station in the Marin Headlands three months after fledging—a distance of 7.2 miles from his nest site.

A 1996 male taken from a dangerous bridge nest in Long Beach and released at a hack site in Santa Barbara County is now 14 years old and has been nesting for years at Mount Diablo, 300 miles from his release site.

A 2000 female taken from a dangerous bridge nest in San Francisco Bay and released at a hack site in Santa Barbara County was reported for the first time since she dispersed from the hack site, this summer as a ten year old at the San Francisco Bay. (83/A)

And finally—this is quite a story—An egg was abandoned on a San Francisco building ledge when the resident pair was driven from its territory by a new pair during the spring 2007. We hatched the egg in an incubator, reared the female youngster under captive parents, and then, we released her from a hack box at Long Marine Laboratory. She was seen one and a half years later by volunteer observers in our network during the fall of 2008 along the shore of South San Francisco Bay near Sunnyvale. (Z/08)