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Post Falcons of the Mayo Clinic
Created by John Eipper on 07/23/18 4:14 AM

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Falcons of the Mayo Clinic (Enrique Torner, USA, 07/23/18 4:14 am)

Tor Guimaraes's post of July 21st reminded me of a fun and unique close-up encounter my family and I had with peregrine falcons on June 4, 2015.

On that day (and I know the exact day because, upon Googling, I found a video recording of the event with the date on it!), we were at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, because of a medical appointment. My two daughters and I were walking around Mayo building in the morning, when we saw a sign advertising a public presentation of the banding of some chick peregrine falcons that have a nest on the roof of the building. My now 11 year-old daughter, who has loved animals ever since I remember (my wife and I have always had a toy poodle ever since we got married) and seems to know all kinds of facts about animals--especially about elephants and peregrine falcons--was absolutely ecstatic about the unique opportunity to see peregrine falcons up close, so you can just imagine her insistence about attending the event.

So, of course I couldn't refuse my then 7-year old sweet daughter not to attend this major event! We were at Mayo's main lecture hall way before the presentation started. Right outside the entrance, trying to lure people into attending the event, there was an adult peregrine falcon seated on a perch that had been placed on a table! Several people were watching it as close as a few inches, some even petted it with the assistance of the falconer. My 7-year old had to pet it too, of course, and she absolutely loved that. I wish I could show you a picture, but I can't find it now. However, here is a link to the event on YouTube:


This event was possible because, since 1987, falcons have been migrating to Mayo Clinic to nest on top of some of their buildings, and, back then, Mayo Clinic started a peregrine falcon program in conjunction with the Midwest Peregrine Society. Mayo installed a camera right on the spot where the falcons had been nesting years ago, and they have been offering a live stream video of the nest for quite a few years. So every time the falcons had baby chicks, they picked them and placed a band on them. With these bands, they have been able to identify them over the years, and, with help from our wonderful tracking technology, know exactly where they are at all times.

The "couple" they have been following in the last few years is composed of a male falcon named Orton "after the town where the rose granite used in the building was quarried" and a female falcon named Hattie in honor of the wife of Dr. William J. Mayo, one of the founders of the clinic. Mayo has been following them carefully since 2014, and have a website where anybody interested can go to in order to watch the family members while they are in their nest. In the link I offer next, you can watch interesting and fun videos and texts related to these falcons. Caveat: if you really, really care about birds, I have to warn you that there is a sad piece of news that might make you cry, or at least weigh heavy upon your heart. Here it is:


Last, but not least, regarding the eternal childhood (and adult, for some) question of how on earth (pun intended) birds know how to navigate their way north and south that my friend Tor brought up, I found a website that explains it, reducing their methods to 5: magnetic sensing (yes, Tor, you seem to be right on track!), geographic mapping, celestial navigation (they know their stars better than me, for sure!), wind patterns, and learned routes. The article in this website is dated 2014, so it's quite recent. Read on:


Mayo Clinic can document, with verifiable, scientific proofs, that, at least peregrine falcons, can travel every year from down south of the US to the very top of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. An adult male falcon named Triumph was in San Antonio, Texas, last winter, and has come back to downtown Minneapolis to nest with Genie. They have been nesting at the top of 33 South Sixth Street Tower (formerly International Multifoods Tower) in Minneapolis. Their story is on the second link I provided right on this post.

I will end this post by telling you (in case you don't know) that peregrine falcons are the fastest birds (and animals) in the planet, able to dive-fly at over 200 miles per hour to catch a poor innocent goose that was happily swimming in the lake in front of our former house in Lakeville, MN! I say this as an example: it really didn't happen. However, we indeed had geese, ducks, blue herons, turtles, beavers, and other wild animals in and around "our" lake. And we also had a peregrine falcon land on our bird fountain once: I took a close-up picture of it, but, of course, it's too old to be on my computer photo album, which only goes as far as 2015. Too bad! Then, one evening, we heard a big "thumpy" noise coming from our living-room, but, when we walked to it, we couldn't see anything. The following morning, while I was walking on our backyard, by the lake, I found out what had hit our living-room window: a wild turkey! There it was: a dead wild turkey, lying on the ground, right under main living-room window. Upon further inspection, I noticed the big, dirty spot it had imprinted on our window. The poor turkey was fooled by our special, UVA and UVB rays protective window film that, when it's sunny, from the outside, looks like a mirror, so the poor turkey thought it was flying towards the lake when it hit the window at fast speed and dropped dead in our backyard.

Well, I will offer you one final link to make Tor happy. This site is about the European robin's navigational skills, and the latest scientific discovery by Henrik Mouritsen and his colleagues at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. They make a case for robins using magnetic fields to orient themselves. Here it is:


What would my elementary and high school science teachers say if they read this post? "No, it's not possible! No way Enrique could have written this!"  Well, you never know what a day will bring!

Henrik Mouritsen and his colleagues at the University of Oldenburg in Germany have now made a compelling argument for the eyes.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2009-11-birds-earth-magnetic-field.html#jCp

JE comments:  Not ones to nest at any old hospital, the Mayo falcons picked the Gold Standard of care!  Thank you, Enrique, for showing us how much we can learn from the birds.  (And yes, what sad news for Orton and Hattie.)

It may be time to revive our stalled initiative of 2015:  WAIS P-Mail.  Do falcons eat pigeons?


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