Sad, sad news

Young peregrine falcon who died by flying into a window in Oakland (photo by Kate St. John)June 24, 2008

He was one of ours.

At 11:45am I got a call at work from someone I’d never met.  She was standing by the Rand Building at Fifth Avenue and Craig Street and there was a dead peregrine falcon at her feet.  She told me his band numbers.  I knew immediately that he was one of the young falcons born at the Cathedral of Learning in April.

Though she told me he was no longer breathing, I ran down Fifth Avenue with my bird rescue towel.  When I arrived he was still warm but, yes, he was dead.

Poor baby!  On the sidewalk near him were pieces of pigeon.  Only a few minutes earlier he had been zooming by with food in his talons and had not seen that the windows were walls, they were not dark openings.  The impact broke his neck.  There was nothing anyone could do.

Several people saw it happen.  Someone in the Rand Building was looking out the window when our youngster hit the wall.  Someone at street level was using the ATM machine below when his body fell to the sidewalk.  Gail Newton and Nancy Janda were walking by and stopped to help.  Two peregrines flew over as we knelt near him.  His family saw it too.

Both Gail and Nancy work at SEI next door to the Rand Building.  Gail is also a volunteer at the National Aviary so she knew how to read his vital signs and who to call.  I am so grateful they called me at WQED.  I am so glad I could see him and hold him.

If he had been alive, there would have been a lot to do.  As it was, there was only the issue of burying him.  Federal law prohibits anyone without a permit from collecting a dead bird.  The law is even stricter for endangered peregrine falcons.  In Pennsylvania, the Game Commission decides what to do with his body so I called Beth Fife, our local WCO, and she told me to report his band numbers to the Game Commission record keepers and then I could bury him.

I took his picture just before we buried him.  He rests within sight of the place he was born.

Requiescat in pace.  


(photo by Kate St. John)

Update, 2014:   This was the first juvenile death I witnessed since I began monitoring peregrines in 2001.

30 thoughts on “Sad, sad news

  1. Delurking to express my sympathies. I’ve been following the Pitt peregrines through your blog and other outlets. I’m so sorry to hear about this.

  2. Ms. St. John,

    I was the man at the ATM who spotted the downed falcon today, and made a series of calls. Your friend borrowed my phone to call.

    I saw the poor bird squinting, and breathing it’s last, gasping for air.

    While I suppose there was nothing to do about a broken neck, it felt like my efforts were in vain.

    I knew someone cared for this bird because of the band. Had it been named? Is there a way I could donate/volunteer/or contribute some artwork for an auction. (Yes, I’m a painter. Please check the listed website.)

    Someone very close to me was very much into birds. She passed far too young three years ago. It would please her, I sense, if I did something.

    Thanks for your time and efforts.

    -Christopher Schmidt

  3. I, too, am so very sorry that we lost one of our beautiful bird friends. They have given me so much joy through your blog! Let’s hope that the remaining chicks of Dorothy and E2 will continue the line!

  4. I am in tears. I can imagine how you must have felt. Not only Dorothy’s and E2’s baby, but yours as well. I’m so sorry.

  5. Yesterday, while having lunch outside at 12:30 near the 5th Avenue side of the Rand Bldg., we delightedly saw a few of the Pitt Peregrine Falcon family madly flying around St Pauls and strongly kaking. It was thrilling to see them, but we did not know of the accident and did not realize their rushing around might have been in reaction to this occurence. Without knowing of the death of the youngster, we, ironically, talked of the advantages and perils of Peregines being born and growing up in urban environments. There is a good provision of food, but man-made dangers such as reflective windows are hazards. We are so grateful for the sense of the man at the ATM who made calls when the accident happened and for your friend who called you, Kate. Thank goodness you were there and had the ability to leave your work and arrive quickly. Our sympathies over this young falcon. It is a sacrifice.

    Our avid love of Peregrine Falcons has caused us to tune in to many live Peregine Falcon web cams across the country. We, also, have had up close and personal visits with Wanda, the Peregrine Falcon at the Aviary, who is not on display. She is small, but gorgeous. Her expression is alert and strong. We have been so lucky to meet her and be in her presence as “trainers for a day” at the Aviary. She is a good representative for her “free” cousins at the Cathedral of Learning, the Gulf Bldg., and others around the world who give us a different view of their lives.

    The Aviary is a wonderful place, filled with dedicated staff and volunteers. What a good time to send contributions to the Aviary to help establish such a connection.

  6. My sincere condolence on the death of one of the babies. I have enjoyed the bird blog during the mating, the incubation of the eggs and then the birth of the three babies at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. Then, it was fledging time and we learned through Kate’s blog what Mom and Dad peregrines do to encourage their young to take flight. In addition, there were those who met at Schenley Plaza to watch them in flight. We fell in love with Pitt’s peregrines, E2, Dorothy and their brood.

    Its very sad for those of us who enjoyed reading about them and watching them in the nest. We would hate to over step but does it not deserve a name in death? Instead of referring to “the one who had a terrible accident” it would be nice to call him by name. Yes, it was the one of the males not the female.

    Please consider.

  7. I am so glad you wrote here, Chris. I wanted to thank you for everything you did yesterday. I didn’t even think to ask your name, we were so focused on what to do for the poor fallen falcon. Your kindness in staying and using your phone to contact Kate and others was and still is so appreciated!

    It hurt to see the young male on the sidewalk, knowing we could not save him. I am so glad that Chris, Gail and Kate were there. They each did everything they could, making sure the right people were notified and that the fledgling wasn’t harassed or disturbed further in his last moments.

    Kate, I deeply appreciated you spending a little extra time there and talking with me.

    Thank you again to all of you. I wish I could have done more.

  8. I loved checking the website and your blog each morning and worried at times as well. I feel that i have lost one of my own friends from the animal world. How very sad for those of us who have had the opportunity to share in their circle of life.

  9. I was very saddened when I found out about one of the babies. I like everyone else have been following the falcons every day. I feel like I have lost one of my pets. I’m glad Kate StJ was able to bury him and not leave him there very long. My sincere condolences. Thanks for letting us know the other peregrines are doing well.

  10. This is very sad. I guess falcon silhouettes on windows wouldn’t work to protect falcons. I purchased some leaves that reflect UV to place on windows both at home and at work. I got them from the Cornell Audubon Center. Would a mass effort to mark windows for our feathered friends be appropriate. I’ll volunteer to purchase a set for the Rand building.

  11. Madelyn, that’s an excellent suggestion, especially for the Rand Building! Wonder how we get this done…

    p.s. his name:  Many of you suggested that our poor boy get a name now that we talk of him so much.  Yes, it has been hard to write about him without a name.  Nancy Janda, who helped at the rescue site, suggested “Sky.”  I consulted with Karen Lang, my fellow Pitt-peregrine-watcher, & we agree that “Sky” is a very fitting name. 

    Rest in peace, Sky.

  12. I was heart broken to hear of the death. I know I’m being anthropomorphic, but one hopes that the other fledglings will learn from his mistake.

    As for the name, Sky is a fitting name for a falcon since they seems to command the sky.

    RIP Sky.

  13. Dear Kate StJ,
    “Sky” is a wonderful name. Thank you for all that you do for the Pittsburgh Community.

  14. Dear Kate,
    I join the others in sadly noting Sky’s dreadful accident. I truly hope his siblings fare much better and live long and productive lives. Reading your bird blog has become a daily ritual and I find it interesting, educational and refreshing. Will continue to follow your notes with interest.
    Anne Marocchi

  15. I share the sentiments expressed by your other loyal readers. Clearly, we peregrine lovers are devoted…

    I’m planning on sending a contribution in memory of Sky to the National Aviary. Do you know if they would be willing to coordinate the purchase of window decals suggested by Madelyn? Perhaps the effort could be called the “To save a peregrine” campaign…

    I look forward to continuing updates on Sky’s siblings as well as the other Pittsburgh peregrines…Kathy

  16. A tragic loss. I remember in an earlier blog entry you mentioned in a response to a question regarding why falcons choose to live in cities and stated that the reasons include plentiful food (pigeons) and that their natural predator (great horned owl) doesn’t reside in cities (except for that pesky statue on the Cathedral of Learning). But alas, windows on tall buildings are a major hazard. Hopefully his siblings grow up to have successful nests elsewhere.

    R.I.P. Sky

  17. Thursday morning (June 26) I saw 1 adult peregrine and the remaining 2 juveniles at the Cathedral of Learning. The kids were playing tag, pretending food exchange and shouting a lot. They looked happy – and a little reckless but my attitude is undoubtedly colored by Sky’s death. I am glad they are practicing these maneuvers and improving their flying.

  18. Oh, Kate, I grieve for the loss of this precious fledgling. Thank you for being there and always ready to help. Sky is a perfect name for this one. You and all of Pittsburgh have my heartfelt sympathy. Fly free, sweet Spirit.

  19. Kate — didn’t you write a year or so ago about a Pittsburgh peregrine fledgling that flew too low or fell into traffic and narrowly escaped death? I recall something like that.

  20. This still brings tears to my eyes. I hope that the management of the Rand Building is willing to work with us to prevent any more tragic incidents like Sky’s.

    Glad to hear that the rest of the “family” is fine and feisty.

  21. Libby asked about an earlier incident with a Pitt fledgling. In 2005 Pitt Security found “Crash”on the street the day after he fledged. They thought he’d been hit by a car. He had a broken collar bone (not really called a collar bone but it was in that location). He healed at a rehab location for 3 months, then went into training with a falconer to strengthen his wings, relearn to fly & learn to hunt. During a training session, 8 months after his accident, he flew away on his own.

  22. Oh, Kate ~ I can’t even begin to explain the deep gnawing grief I feel. . . although I’m sure that if anyone understands, it’s you. I’ve been in contact with both Todd Katzner and Steve Latta, sharing with them my love of the raptors, specifically the peregrines, and let them know I’ve admired them for years and years on my own. But it was just this year that I discovered and religiously followed the goings on by way of the falcon-cams. I’ve read your blog from the beginning of the year and have had so much delight in your stories. My heart is just broken due to Sky’s untimely accident and passing. I don’t think my heart could feel heavier if he were my family. I guess in some ways, he is. God bless and keep this little life. . . and be ever watchful over his family. Thank you for all you do, and thank you for letting me share. It has helped to be able to read so much follow-up to the original announcement on the news.

  23. Dear Kate ~~ I am just crushed for you, and my heart is broken over the death of one of God’s creatures ~~ this most precious, beautiful, fledgling. I am still crying. I share in the sadness of all of your other loyal readers. I just wanted you to know how much I have loved watching the Peregrin Falcon cam / nest at the Cathedral of Learning. That I have shared with others in watching this remarkable Peregrin family grow, has been the most amazing experience. Thank you for your bird blog. I have read and loved each & every one of your bird blogs ~~ thank you ever so much ! May this fledgling rest in peace. I hope his siblings will be safe, and that they continue to grow up healthy and be successful in the world.

  24. Hello, everyone. I have been away from Kate’s blog for a few weeks and am so sad to read of Sky’s accident. I couldn’t begin to add to the beautiful testimonies everyone has written here about our young friend. I love that he is now at rest in sight of his birthplace. Perhaps his little spirit will be watching over all the fledglings to come. I know he’ll be in my thoughts whenever I pass the CoL. Thank you Kate for your gift of this blog and thank you, posters, for sharing your touching thoughts. –Patty C.

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