Alas

Four peregrine falcon chicks, ten days old, 2014 (hoto from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)
Four peregrine falcon chicks, early May 2014 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Gulf Tower)

Monday, April 30, 2018, 6:45pm

Alas.

The developer has issued a press release with his final decision. He will act on the “taking” permit and the chicks will be removed from the nest to be raised by a rehabber.

While there was a chance to change the outcome I felt it was worth asking the developer to reconsider.  He has now made his final decision.  The time has passed for asking.  Do not call.  Do not nag.  And above all Be Polite and Considerate.

I have attached the BET Investments press release here so you can read his full statement.  I have purposely removed contact information (other than what you already know) because the time has passed for contacting BET Investments.

Mary Ann Thomas at Trib-Live broke the news late this afternoon. Read the full story here: Peregrine falcons to be removed from Downtown Pittsburgh building.

Also click the links below:

Thank you for your support for Pittsburgh’s peregrine falcons.

 

A Caution to Commenters: Normally I do not edit readers’ comments but this situation is not normal. If you post a comment that could inflame others, I may edit or delete it.

(photo of Dori & Louie’s peregrine chicks at the Gulf Tower in early May 2014; we do not have photos of this year’s chicks)

54 thoughts on “Alas

  1. The contractors should have to allow the bird family develop enough to safely move them…They could work on other areas that don’t interfere w the birds…

    1. Susan, please read Mary Ann Thomas’ article for full details including how long the contractor has worked on other areas. There are reasons for this timing though we don’t know what they are. It feels recent to us because we (the public) only found out about it last weekend.

  2. I am heartbroken, but want to thank everyone who made an effort. Special thanks for all you have done Kate. Your presence on the news was so great as you presented all our thoughts. You have always and will continue to have the safety of our beloved Peregrine families at the forefront. I, (we) all appreciate all you teach us and share with us every day. Prayers for all our wonderful birds..

    1. I want to second every word you have written. You have summed up the situation perfectly. Thank you.

  3. How can being raised by a rehabber provide the proper training in catching prey on the fly and all other peregrine behaviors?

  4. Hi Kate,

    I’m just curious why moving the chicks to the Gulf Tower so Dorie and Louie could continue to raise them, or moving them to Pitt so Hope and Terzo could foster them are not options?

    Thanks for keeping us all informed.

    Karen

    1. On the idea of moving the family to the Gulf Tower: It is easy to move young chicks (they can’t fly) but the parents are not transported. The parents find their chicks by sound and sight as they fly in the vicinity of the nest. The Gulf Tower is too far away to see & hear the chicks — about 1/2 mile away — and the adults will be focusing their attention on Third Avenue as they search for their young. It is unlikely they will fly over to Gulf and find them in time.

    2. Hope might attack them or eat them if you moved them to Pitt.
      (Explanatory note from Kate St. John: The female peregrine at Pitt exhibits very unusual behavior — she kills and eats some of her chicks at hatching time (see link). Even though she treats her remaining chicks tenderly after hatching is over, she’s not a good fit for raising orphans.)

  5. You posted that the parent falcons would still patrol the nest site even thought the chicks were removed. It’ll be interesting to see how the developers handle this.

  6. Move the chicks and 1 adult to the Gulf Building and/or record nest sounds and play at Gulf Building loud enough to attract a look. Do this when the noise level is at its quietest.

  7. I’m confused as to why the developer is saying there is not enough time to react to this. Clearing a site for threatened and endangered species is one of the first steps in proper due diligence. The developer should have selected another site.

    1. B A Walters, this peregrine pair doesn’t always nest at Third Avenue. Last year they nested at the Gulf Tower. If the study at Third Ave was done a year ago (it probably was), there were no peregrines there.

  8. Mike Jones’ suggestion sounds viable. These babes may have to remain in captivity for life. A very sad situation that could have had a much better outcome.

    1. Kem, I just put a post on Mayor Peduto Face Book page in response to his post regarding a speech he gave to grad. class at Pitt dated 4/29/18. “Lesson 11 – Appreciate the Kindness of Others”. I mentioned that others have reached out to him and haven’t gotten a response. I will see if the information I included in my post will get one either. I did remind him (in a very nice way) these requests are coming from the people he was put in office to serve.

    1. Joe, not *that* BET!
      The founder of this real estate developer is Bruce E. Toll.

      B.E.T.

  9. Hi Kate,

    Mary Ann Thomas’s initial story included excerpts from a letter from the PGC, but I haven’t seen it published in full. Can you post it?

    Are the birds utilizing a tray or box at the Third Avenue site? Am I correct in understanding that they are reacting to workers renovating an adjacent building rather than the nest building itself?

    If so, I wonder if it might have been feasible to attempt to relocate the eyrie to a different facade or area of the nest building that doesn’t directly face or overlook the construction site.

    I don’t recall specifics off the top of my head, but I have a vague recollection of reading about an attempt to relocate an active eyrie.

    Did you talk to Art at the PGC about the possibility of fostering the chicks into one or more other eyries rather than sending them to a rehab facility? There’s precedent for that, of course.

    If the developer’s goal in removing the chicks is simply to end the adults’ aggressive behavior, it will be interesting to see how quickly that occurs.

    Also, although I don’t think it’s very common for them to lay a second clutch after losing chicks, it does happen, and it’s early enough in the season that I think it’s conceivable they might recycle. If so, they might move back to Gulf Tower or perhaps select another site on the Third Ave. building.

    Thanks for all your efforts on behalf of these birds and other area peregrines. You did everything you could in a very short period of time. Although we all would have preferred a different outcome, these conflicts are going to occur from time to time where falcons nest in urban areas.

    -Matt

    1. Matt Olear, Thank you for your thoughful comment. I’ll quickly answer what I can.
      * Tray or box at the Third Avenue site? No.
      * Are they nesting on adjacent building rather than the construction site? Yes. Watch the KDKA video to set the scene.
      * Feasible to relocate the eyrie on nearby/same building? I don’t think so based on my knowledge of the area.
      * Fostering the chicks into other eyries rather to a rehab facility? As you mention, chicks are placed in foster nests when a regional peregrine nest already has chicks the same age, has good foster parents, is a safe site for nesting and fledging, and the nest is not already at capacity. The PGC knows best if these conditions are available. Personally, I don’t know of such a site in southwestern PA this year.

  10. The time has not passed for asking …. nor has the time passed for condemnation. The developer, the Pennsylvania Game Commission… all of them. They need to know that this is not acceptable. “Being nice” is not in my rule book Kate. 🙁 This is beyond reasoning and the guidelines set by the Federal Government. They are protected species. A rehabber can feed them, but is he going to teach them to hunt like only the parents can? pfftt ….

  11. Hi Kate —
    I didn’t know how else to get in touch with you apart from commenting here (I do not have a Twitter account). I was driving home this evening from work and noted a large(r) bird struck and killed in the inner lane on Bigelow Blvd heading inbound to downtown from Bloomfield. I could not tell if it was one of the turkeys from Frank Curto Park but am hoping it was not a falcon. Do you know if anyone (police?) would be able to check?
    Thank you!

    1. Leigh Anne, thank you for your concern. It is unlikely to be a peregrine falcon since all four adults in the area (2 Downtown and 2 at Pitt) are busy far away at their respective nest sites and so many people monitor them that we’d know if one went missing. I think your guess that it’s a wild turkey is a good one. I’ve seen more road-killed wild turkeys than usual in the past two weeks(!) For whatever reason turkeys are on the move and on the road right now. If you’d still like to call someone I’d suggest city Animal Control.

  12. Hi Kate,

    Do you have any idea what government agencies we could reach out to to prevent this from happening again? Nothing can be done for these chicks, but I am hopeful that if enough folks speak out we might be able to protect future birds.

    1. Bree, Mary Ann Thomas’ article says that the developer applied to the PA Game Commission and US Fish and Wildlife. The permit was issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and is not usually issued (see quote below).
      The agencies are governed by state and federal laws and by regulations set by the executive branch of government (state=Governor, U.S.=President). Nothing has changed recently at the state level that I know of. I do know that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was recently weakened at the federal level, though I don’t know if those changes affected this permit. Read more about weakening of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act here.

      From Mary Ann Thomas’ article: “A special purpose permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act submitted by the developer was approved by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Catherine Hibbard, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
      It’s uncommon for the agency to issue such a permit, Hibbard said.”

  13. Hi Kate,
    Thank you for the updates on the Pittsburgh peregrine families. My husband and I watch the peregrine and eagle families from Florida. We are so sad about the move. Wish it was a different outcome.

  14. So sad to hear this. Hoping for a good outcome for the chicks, at least as good as can be expected under the circumstances.

  15. So sad at this outcome. Much displacement in Pittsburgh for the sake of profit. The urgency to move the chicks seems ultimately related to revenue.

    Kate, thank you for all you do for Pittsburgh’s always dramatic and beautiful falcon families.

  16. So is the silver lining the fact that they will probably go to the other nesting site next year and we’ll get to watch, as it’s the site with a camera? Let’s hope so.
    Thanks for all you do Kate, you are such an awesome advocate for this beautiful bird!

  17. The university is the one who needs to be pressured, shamed or cajoled into moving the deadline for the developer.

    ROBIN, see my reply.

    1. Robin, Point Park University has NOTHING to do with this project nor does it have any influence over the developer. The building happens to be across the street from Point Park and the owner has decidd that he want students to live in his building. He is marketing it to “students” but they could be going to school anywhere in the region.

  18. Kate –
    I spoke today with Bryan Klvever (413-253-8200), Federal Fish and Wildlife, Northeast Division. He admitted he signed the “take” permit. It was a heated discussion. He basically said that because the falcons numbers are rising he felt – as a biological scientist – that these 4 chicks would not be a significant loss or gain for the total US population should they not survive. I told him that these are not just “falcons” but have names Louie and Dori and that because of Louie’s age it could be his last chicks. I also pointed out that the construction company knew those birds were there for weeks – months even – and should have made an attempt to block the nesting site before eggs were even laid. The construction company used the “needed housing for the returning students” as the main reason. This is a sad day for the bird lovers of Pittsburgh but I have to disagree with you on one point – I think we should fight this with everything we can for the sake of those chicks because they – and their parents – can not fight for themselves.

    1. A precedent has been set now with this special takings permit. You can be assured now that this will occur more frequently in the future as businesses look to commit end runs around endangered species for profiteering with negative impacts for wildlife. The cavalier attitude expressed by the government representative Mr. Klvever is proof positive that a meek response that has been advocated on this site and the falconuts site will only embolden the businesses and the US Fish and Wildlife service in future similar circumstances.

    2. I’ve been fighting and advocating for the environment for most of my life, and, sadly, I’ve lost more battles than I’ve won. But evil triumphs when good people do nothing.

      Perhaps a tack we haven’t tried is to show the developer how they can get free positive advertising/publicity for their building and themselves by embracing the peregrine family that Pittsburghers love.

  19. Is there anyway to make sure that the fledglings are raised properly and introduced back into the wild [edited] instead of illegally becoming falconry birds?[end edit] I’m concerned for their safety, and the removal seems so vague…doesn’t the public have a right to know where they have gone?

    1. Kathey, the Game Commission is certainly going to monitor and follow these birds and frequently check up on the rehabber.

  20. Has anyone looked at the prices for these apartments. I checked their website regarding applying for one. They are so out of a students price range. There are various sizes including Penthouse suites, gym and rooftop decks. I’m sorry, but their reasoning regarding student needing these apartments sound a little lame to me. I’ve been trying to read through the laws pertaining to that permit, but It’s a little out of my expertise. I keep hoping to find some kind of loophole. That being said, maybe someone out there can afford this kind of student housing. Maybe I’m just to old to think this what a dorm should cost..

  21. Last year we lost an Eagle egg when the tree fell over, & this year we are not going to watch these sweet babies grow up . I hope this is the last sad event we are having to deal with. May everything go well next year…

    1. Patricia Weber, because of the nest location on Third Avenue there is no camera so we couldn’t watch them anyway. But we would have enjoyed them at Fledge Watch time.

  22. Kate, thank you for your reporting on this. I desperately wish we had a different outcome, but since this has been done in accordance with the rules as they currently stand, there isn’t much point railing against the folks who have no choice but to comply. Now is the time to act so we can avert future decisions like this. To do that, we need for our government to hold wildly different priorities for Nature, or wildlife. This is another wake up call for everyone who is upset by this. It’s up to us to engage politically – register to vote, volunteer for environmental candidates’ campaigns, communicate with your elected and appointed officials to let them know that the environment is your top voting issue. Until they believe down to their shoes that they can’t get elected or re-elected if they act against the environment, they will never prioritize a constituency with no voice and no vote. It’s up to us to be their voice and their vote.

  23. I wonder what would happen if the owner of the building the nest is located on refused to allow anyone onto the property to access the nest? I’m not sure how high above the roof of 319 3rd the nest is located. I doubt the nest could be accessed by leaning a ladder on the nest building from the roof of 319 3rd. So, I imagine they would have to send someone over the edge of the nest building. If I owned the building, I would not want to let anyone do that, too much liability involved. Or is there easy access to the nest site from the interior of the building? Might be worth contacting the building manager of 320 4th ave (I think that is the nest building) & seeing what they think about the whole deal.

  24. So have peregrine chicks successfully been raised in “rehab centers” in the past? Is there a chance that they could be successfully released into the wild? I noticed a couple comments saying the chicks wont know how to hunt. Is that true?

    1. Nick, there is a long history of raising peregrine chicks. It was done during the Peregrine Recovery Program, which brought peregrines back from extinction in eastern North America, and it is done by falconers. In the Recovery Program the chicks that were released in the wild became the ancestors of the peregrines we have today. Those ancestors learned how to hunt on their own because they had no parents to teach them.

  25. Took a look at the building they are renovating today. They have a flat metal roof which forms a sort of extra floor space over part of the roof. If they could extend that, the workers could work and could have been working under cover from peregrine attacks all along. Plus, if the developer had done his market research, he would’ve known that proximity to resident peregrines is regarded in this city as a plus!

  26. Kate,

    After reading the article in today’s Post Gazette I’m really confused as to the real reason why they are taking Dori and Louie’s chicks from the nest. According to the article, last year the Game Commission conducted routine research on the natural heritage value of the development site. The developer was told the falcon nesting situation did not impact their site (probably because they nested at the Gulf Tower). Then two weeks ago, they were told by the commission to stop exterior work on the building because of the site’s proximity to nesting peregrine falcons.

    They gave them 3 options – #1 Continue work and subsequently violate state and federal laws and make themselves subject to prosecution, #2 Apply for federal and state permits to grant a take of the chicks (which is the one they chose) or #3 Stop construction and wait until the chicks have fledged.

    In the third paragraph of the article it says “Kevin Feeley, a company spokesman, said previous reports that BT Pitt Third workers were harassed by the birds were incorred. There was never any danger to the workers, no incident with the birds”.

    My question is this. If they weren’t being harassed by Dori and Louie and everthing was going along smoothly, why did the Game Commission give them the 3 options in the first place? If they were disturbing the falcons and being buzzed by them (which had been reported earlier) I could understand them wanting to protect the falcons. But if the workers weren’t bothering the falcons, and the falcons weren’t bothering the workers, why did the game commission force them to ultimately choose to get the permit to “take” the chicks?

    Believe me, I’m not sticking up for that company at all – They should have chosen Option 3. I’m just really heartsick about this whole situation.

    I just wondered if you knew why the Game Commission gave them those 3 options the first place?

    1. Carol D., I have no answers. I didn’t know about the three options until I read about in the paper. I’m confused about it too.

  27. Right now, as is, the building BET is renovating has been gutted and all the windows have been removed. There is no glass in any of those window openings. If they don’t get that glass in – with all those nice window ledges – before the eyases fledge . . .

    1. Robin, the chicks will not be in that nest when they fledge. The condition of the building where they used to live does not matter.

    1. Karen, TV news says they weren’t moved yet but the move is still planned. I’ll write more tomorrow morning.

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