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Last updated: Thu. May. 29, 2014 - 08:20 am EDT

City’s raptor chicks get banded

IDs will allow officials to track migratory habits

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FORT WAYNE — Despite some resistance and fuss from the three white fluff balls that will one day become skilled hunters of the skies, John Castrale managed Wednesday to successfully band the legs of the peregrine falcon chicks that live atop Fort Wayne's tallest building.

Far removed from the cliffs they originally called home, the peregrines have lived in Fort Wayne for years.

“They turned out to be a pretty adaptable species,” said Castrale, a 33-year-plus employee of the fish and wildlife division of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, as he applied the identification bands to the young raptors.

The three were named Abbett, Magic and Cheetah after a naming contest by students in Abbett Elementary's Study Connection Program.

The young birds live with their parents, Moxie and Jamie, at the top of One Summit Square – but they won't be there much longer.

In about two weeks, the young will be on the verge of their first flights; after that, their parents will care for them for only two months or so, Castrale said.

The banding in Fort Wayne was the fifth time in a day that Castrale had to fend off angry peregrine parents as he removed their young from their nests in other regions of the state.

The bands have numbers that can be read only with a pair of binoculars, providing a non-electronic way to track the birds.

One bird from this area was spotted as far away as Costa Rica.

The fact that any peregrines are in the area is impressive, Castrale said, given that the species was nearly wiped out just a few decades before as a result of DDT and other pesticides.

“The entire eastern population was extinct,” he said.

In 1965, none were spotted east of the Mississippi River, and the western population was reduced by 90 percent, said Alex Forsythe of Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehab.

The group's mission is to rehabilitate injured raptors in northern Indiana and to educate the public.

Alex, 14, explained to those who attended the banding that the species has one of the largest migrations of any bird, with some traveling up to 15,000 miles a year.

Part of their comeback is due to nest boxes and shelters, such as the one American Electric Power set up on the roof of One Summit Square above its executive offices.

“All the states worked together to bring these birds back,” Castrale said.

Despite the comeback, there are only about 300 peregrines in the Midwest and 24 in Indiana, he said.

Although originally native to river bluffs and cliffs, the birds of prey adapted well enough to urban living that about 40 percent of the population is found on buildings, Alex said. The birds hunt exclusively from the air and will take down prey as small as a hummingbird to as a large as a sandhill crane.

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