During the Peregrine Recovery Program (1970 to 1999) when peregrine falcons were exceedingly rare, scientists and volunteers monitored their entire nesting cycle to insure the nestlings survived to adulthood.
A critical step was to watch the fledging stage when the young birds first flew from the ledge. If fledglings landed on the ground they were vulnerable to predators or, in urban settings, to being hit by cars.
Trained volunteers monitored the nest sites and helped return grounded peregrine fledglings to their nests. The practice became known as Fledge Watch.
Peregrines aren’t so rare any more but many Fledge Watches continue, often as social occasions and an opportunity for peregrine enthusiasts to see the birds do exciting things. At some sites watchers are still needed to save young peregrines’ lives.
Pictured here is a Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza in June 2009, across the street from the Cathedral of Learning where the Pitt peregrines nest. This Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch is a social event because the Pitt fledglings rarely land on the ground.
To get a flavor of the Pitt Peregrine Fledge Watch see these links:
Plans for the 2009 Fledge Watch,
Video of what we do at Fledge Watch,
The first bird fledges,
Video of a first flight by Stephen Tirone.
(photo by Mark Klingler)
p.s. On the subject of the word Fledge: David Nixon pointed out what I’ve known for a long time but conveniently forgotten — that we peregrine monitors are misusing the word “fledge.”
Fledge is a verb that means “to develop feathers large enough for flight.” It didn’t mean “to fly for the first time” but I learned the new meaning long ago from other peregrine watchers. I imagine the meaning changed in this way:
When people started to watch young peregrines fly for the first time they called it a “Fledgling Watch.” But “Fledgling Watch” is harder to say than “Fledge Watch” so the name changed. And because the purpose of a Fledge Watch is to watch the birds fly for the first time, “fledge” began to mean “fly for the first time.”
It is changes like these that make English such a plastic language.
(Yes, plastic is a word that changed, too.)