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Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Deer Ridge Elementary School kindergartners William Thornbury, left, and Isaac Nicholson view one of the peregrine falcon chicks in the auditorium of One Summit Square.
Peregrine chicks given a once-over

Crowd of kids sees baby falcons banded

The mother of four peregrine falcon chicks dives at DNR biologists John Castrale and Amy Kearns, who had just returned them to the nest atop One Summit Square.

The new baby was not happy. Far from it.

She had been plucked from her cozy nest, put into a bucket with her siblings and was now being handled by two strangers, one of whom held her down on a table while the other clipped weird little bands around her legs.

And all she could do was squawk.

Over and over again, until it became one continuous piercing high-pitched noise of anger, fright and frustration: Squawk squawk squawksquawksquawk.

Such went Thursday for the new brood of peregrine falcons begotten by parents Moxie and Jamie atop One Summit Square earlier this year.

Four eggs were discovered in the nest, sponsored by Indiana Michigan Power, which also trains a webcam on the birds, in March.

The chicks hatched soon thereafter.

As a way to track the falcons, officials with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Fish and Wildlife banded the four baby birds in front of an auditorium full of school children.

All of the kids scooted to the edge of their seats and let out little "ohhhhhs" and "ahhhhhs" as the first baby falcon – christened as Soara by the children – was pulled from the bucket and began her squawking.

"We're not hurting them or anything like that," said John Castrale, an official with the fish and wildlife division who did the actual banding. "They're just excited and don't like being handled."

Meanwhile, Soara tried to continuously bite the hand of DNR biologist Amy Kearns, who held the bird down while Castrale did his work.

He took blood from the little falcon's wing for genetic purposes. The bands he attached to their legs, which are harmless, allow researchers to track the birds.

The Midwest is the best area to research the birds since so many have been banded throughout the years, according to Castrale.

You can see where they go, who they've mated with and what has become of them.

"You come to know their history," Castrale said, noting that most birds are monogamous, though some male peregrine falcons mate with two females.

This year marks the first since 2007 that baby falcons have hatched at Indiana Michigan Power's nest.

Castrale said for the next two weeks, the new falcons will flap their wings and build their muscles at the edge of the nest.

Then, they'll try to fly.

After about six weeks, they'll probably leave their parents, Castrale said.

Soon after being banded, Soara was carried around the auditorium so the children could get a better look at her. She continued to squawk.

Her siblings – named Electra, Skylar and Maverick – were a little bit more subdued.

But each one, like their sister, still let out some high-pitched rebellious squeals that echoed throughout the auditorium.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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