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Peregrine Falcon Chicks Learn To Ride The Wind

June 25, 1985

BOSTON (AP) _ High above the shoppers, tourists and office workers who throng downtown Boston, four young peregrine falcons are soaring, diving, rolling and flapping as they teach themselves to fly.

The birds have been given a home atop the federal Post Office and courthouse building as part of a project to restore the magnificent predators to their former range.

From a penthouse apartment in the Devonshire building on Washington Street, four of the young birds could be seen close-up Monday as they soared.

One, two or three at a time, they swooped above the skyline. From time to time, one falcon would dive at another, playing a form of ″tag″ that helps them learn to hunt.

In another month or so, they will begin hunting starlings and pigeons, which they attack in flight. Falcons do not attack humans, and they do not hunt animals on the ground.

Tom French, who runs the non-game program for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said reports of a bird attacking squirrels on Boston Common are due to a red-tailed hawk, not falcons.

The peregrines were hatched in incubators by the Peregrine Fund in Ithaca, N.Y., which is trying to restore the birds to the East Coast, where they were wiped out in the 1960s because of pesticides.

Now about seven weeks old, the young Boston birds have grown their flight feathers, dark gray on the back and brown-and-white on the breast, and reached most of their adult size.

With a wingspan of about two feet, they are already impressive fliers, if a bit unsteady in the gusts above 500 feet.

From the street, they can be seen practicing flight among the rooftops.

They now are fed frozen quail atop the post office, but by late July, they should have learned how to hunt and feed themselves. Then, they will probably disperse. But the hope is that they will return to this area later to breed.

At least one of six birds released in Boston last summer, the first year of the reintroduction project, has returned. A second adult has been sighted but it has not been positively identified as one of the 1984 brood.

The class of 1985 began with six young chicks. One was killed by an older peregrine, which broke the young bird’s back in a territorial dispute, said Ellie Horwitz of the wildlife agency. Another is missing.

Ms. Horwitz said the four remaining birds released earlier this month are now large enough and accomplished enough fliers to hold their own against almost anything else in the sky.

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