One incident is unfortunate. Two is a pattern.
After one young peregrine died on Monday in this hall of mirrors and a second was injured yesterday, my brain has been working overtime trying to make sense of it all.
Why were there no peregrine deaths in Oakland during the first five years of nesting but at least one per year since then? What caused this? What changed?
From the start of Pitt peregrine nesting in 2002 through the spring of 2007, only one youngster had an accident in Oakland and it didn’t kill him. Crash hit a window on the Cathedral of Learning, fell into an architectural nook where he was trapped overnight, and was found in the street the next evening with a broken collar bone. He went to rehab and was released successfully the following February. (He actually released himself.)
Since 2008 the news has been bad. Every year at least one juvenile peregrine has died near Fifth Avenue and Craig Street. In 2008 Sky hit the windows of the Rand Building. In 2009 a juvenile died in the Webster Hall chimney but wasn’t discovered until October. In 2010 one juvenile died and another was injured in that same chimney (which was covered immediately). This year Yellow Girl died and Red was injured hitting the Software Engineering Institute’s windows on Henry Street.
What is going on? Why do the juveniles spend time where it’s so deadly?
My friend Karen Lang has an answer.
In the spring and summer of 2007 the University of Pittsburgh cleaned the Cathedral of Learning. Up to that point the building was a pigeon palace with nests in every nook and cranny. At the end of the cleaning project the building was pigeon-proofed with netting to cover the access points. With few pigeons at home our juvenile peregrines learn to hunt at the next nearest flock which happens to be at Fifth & Craig. That area is a much more dangerous zone than the Cathedral of Learning because of its now-covered chimney and two mirror-glass buildings.
Slowly, we humans are figuring this out. The chimney was easy to fix. The windows are harder.
It would help if the pigeon flock moved to a safer location.
(photo of the Software Engineering Institute hall of mirrors on Henry Street by Kate St. John)
Update on Red’s condition: This morning I saw “Red” eating breakfast on Heinz Chapel steeple while both of his parents watched him. Like all parents they could tell he wasn’t well and needed some extra attention. Over at St. Paul’s Cathedral steeple, one of his remaining sisters whined. She seems fine. I hope she stays away from those windows!