We first saw Krypto in early May 2014 – one of hatchlings on the webcam hosted by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Each spring, ASRI turns the webcam on so viewers can enjoy the amazing process of Peregrine Falcons being raised from eggs to fledglings. The falcons do not use the box as a home throughout the year, but they do remain on/around 111 Westminster (a.k.a. The Superman Building because some believe it resembles The Daily Planet).
This year was full of drama for the Peregrines in Providence. First, we falcon watchers were surprised to see a new female had taken over the nest box and mated with the resident tiercel (male falcon). We knew this because the female seen on the webcam was banded, and the previous female who ruled the city for fourteen years was unbanded. Unfortunately, we do not know what became of the beautiful falcon…
I’ve been told “Peregrine Falcons mate for life, but they don’t mourn for a second”, so the tiercel who was bonded with the previous female quickly bonded with the new one. And in early May the couple welcomed four new hatchlings… sadly, the next day many excited school children who watch online were upset to see only three of the hatchlings were in the nest box… we do not know what happened to the fourth, but Krypto (to be named later) was one of the survivors.
When the nestlings reach three weeks of age, wildlife officials are permitted up to the nest box in order to band their tarsus with ID numbers that will be useful for identifying the falcons if they are encountered in the future. Banding day is my favorite day of the year, the one day I get to be close to the wild falcons that I usually can only observe through a powerful zoom lens. I’m honored that the Audubon Society allows me to photograph the event in Providence each year.
Below are the three nestlings waiting for their turn to be banded. One of them is Krypto. For my full series of photos from banding day 2014, please CLICK HERE.
By late June, the three falcons had fledged and then instead of two falcons patrolling Providence, there were five.
After the parents teach the fledglings how to fly and hunt they are chased away to find their own territories by late summer.
Here is my favorite photo of this year’s fledglings — all three together on the top of the tallest perch in Rhode Island:
Things looked good for the fledglings until DEM received a call about two injured falcons who had collided with the glass on top of the Blue Cross Blue Shield building. The first year of a falcon’s life is very perilous… sadly only 50% survive and smashing into windows is a common cause of death. If someone from BCBS is reading this and can make a difference by adding bird-safe coating to the glass, it would be appreciated by many falcon fans. Useful information can be found on flap.org
Sadly, one of the falcons passed away from its injuries, but the other was examined by Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island and did not have any broken bones, so he was transferred to Born To Be Wild Nature Center for rehabilitation and hopefully release. Only the falcon’s parents can properly teach it how to hunt, so it was important to return Krypto to them as soon as possible
After one week of enjoying a diet of plump quail with vitamins added, it was time to return to falcon to his parents. I joined BTBW to photograph the event from the top of a downtown parking garage.
He flew all the way up to the 27th floor and rejoined the one remaining sibling that we observed waiting for him.
Here is some cool slow-motion video of the release:
Here is an adult falcon flying by with the nest box viewable in the background:
So, the young falcon was back with his family and hopefully learning to be a successful hunter…
But, seventeen days later I was contacted about a bird of prey found on the sidewalk downtown so I rushed over to check it out. Standing in the doorway of 111 Westminister was the sad little falcon…
It was obvious to me the falcon was emaciated and weak. I called Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island and waited with him until they arrived to pick him up. Other good samaritans helped ensure he didn’t get spooked and fly into glass or traffic.
It’s incredible that this little guy made his way to the doorway where he would find help. The sad reality is that he could have perished anywhere else and we never would have known.
He was indeed near starvation and very lucky to have found human intervention. We can only speculate why he was not eating or being fed by his parents, but he did last seventeen days since the rooftop release so he must have eaten within that time.
The falcon was given a name by The Maxsons at Born To Be Wild Nature Center… Krypto was selected because 111 Westminster is locally known as “The Superman Building”, and Krypto is Superman’s flying pet dog.
I visited him in rehab and he wasn’t happy to see me… and that’s a good thing, he should not like people. He did however make friends with a young Red-Shouldered Hawk. Vivian Maxson took this photo and says, “We see some amazing things at BTBW and here’s an unlikely pairing. Never in the wild would a Peregrine Falcon be seen hanging out with a Red-Shouldered Hawk, but this summer these two young birds became buddies. That’s Krypto on the left.”
The young raptors were briefly together simply due to lack of space to house them separately. Because of their comparable size and young age, they may have gotten comfort from each other while away from their natural siblings. If they did not, they would have been separated. As adults they would never get along or be kept together while in rehab.
The Maxsons nursed Krypto back to health, but only his parents can properly teach him to fly and hunt in the wild. And sadly, they must have rejected him and left him to starve, so he could not be returned to them. The only solution was to find a falconer who could train Krypto — and Peregrine Falcons are so fast that they can only be handled by a Master Falconer. Luckily the Maxsons knew just the guy…
Here is Krypto meeting Master Falconer, Dick Morrison. I love the uncertain look on Krypto’s face in this photo taken by Vivian Maxson. He looks nervous, so let’s all wish him good luck!
Ideally, Krypto will be deemed ready for release sometime in 2015… the adventures of Krypto continue…
Here is Vivian Maxson’s take on Krypto:
The fact that this bird ended up twice at BTBW is remarkable to me. Most birds are not lucky enough to be rescued a second time. He could have just as easily landed on some rooftop and passed away completely unnoticed. But this falcon, Krypto, miraculously shows up on the steps of the same building he was born on. That truly amazes me!
So what do you do with a raptor that won’t hunt? Falcon Boot Camp! My friend, Dick Morrison (a retired Marine), is in the process of working with Krypto using falconry training techniques such as “manning” (getting Krypto to accept the gauntlet), “creancing” (flying while attached to a light line prior to flying loose) and “lure training” (an imitation bird used to entice the hawk). As things progress, Dick & Krypto will go on hunting trips together where the falcon will learn to “waiting on” (flying high over the falconer, waiting for him to flush the quarry).
We feel we have given Krypto every opportunity we can – now it’s all up to him!
If you’re a fan of Krypto, I urge you to help in his rehab by donating to Born To Be Wild Nature Center via their website hawkri.org. All raptors found injured in Rhode Island are rehabilitated (if possible) at Born To Be Wild Nature Center — The Maxsons are smart and selfless people and receive no federal or state funding – they rely on donations from people like me and you.
Want more? CLICK HERE for pictures of 2011’s fledglings enjoying breakfast on a downtown rooftop.