A Young Peregrine’s First Migration

Several birders observed an immature Peregrine Falcon at Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis, on October 1, 2011. By itself, the sighting was not very significant. Peregrines are regularly seen in migration cruising through the park, scattering other birds as they look for a yummy meal of shorebird or gull. On Saturday, the Peregrine was first noted when it stooped on a flock of gulls, causing the assortment of Ring-billed, Bonaparte’s, Laughing, and Franklin’s to take to the air. The Peregrine did not seriously attempt to land any of the birds and the gulls settled back down. A few minutes later, the falcon zipped by again and landed on the nearby mud flats, providing a handful of birders a terrific view.

One birder quickly noticed that the bird was banded. Fortunately, Dr. Michael Brown, one of the state’s best and most experienced bird photographers, was on hand and ready with his camera. Even with scopes, the bird was just a wee bit too far away to get specific information from the bands. However, Michael’s talents, large lens, and sophisticated photo software provided the information that was sought.

Michael’s photos were shared with Dr. John Castrale, who as the state ornithologist, oversees the Peregrine Falcon program in Indiana. Even if the bird was not from Indiana, Dr. Castrale would have access to the origin of the bird.

A quick response from Dr. Castrale revealed that the Peregrine was indeed a Hoosier and had hatched earlier this year at Mittal Steel in East Chicago. Castrale noted that the female bird brandished black over red leg bands. The black band reads “57” and the red simply reads “x”. Along with two siblings, she was banded on June 2, 2011. Mystery solved on where the bird came from.

So, 57X from East Chicago, we wish you well as you wander this fall, winter, and spring. We will be cheering for you to find a mate and start a family of your own. We will be waiting for news of your exploits.

UPDATE! Baby Photos Become Available! Wow, moments after posting this blog entry, Dr. Castrale’s assistant, Amy Kearns, mailed us a baby photo of 57X and her siblings from the day they were banded. 57X is one cute baby bird! She is probably just a few weeks old in the photo. Let’s hope we obtain more photos for her album in the coming years. Again, good luck 57X!

Don Gorney