Peregrine Falcons at 55 Water Street

Peregrine Falcons: Nature's Most Remarkable Flying Hunter
The Story of Jack & Jill

In 1999 a pair of Peregrine Falcons "Jack & Diane" ventured from the Bank of New York Building on Wall Street to the 14th floor of 55 Water Street, a 54 story building nestled into the Southern tip of Manhattan.

Peregrine Falcons mate for life and Jack & Diane had been joined in falcon matrimony since 1993, producing 19 young over the time span of the relationship. The male "Jack" was hatched and banded on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1990 and the female, "Diane" was found and banded by Chris Nadareski of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after flying into a building on Wall Street and suffering from a wing fracture in 1998. The two love-birds nested and produced 3 young in 1998, 4 young in 1999 and 5 young in 2001. Unfortunately, Diane who is estimated to be 13 years of age, was found in lower Manhattan with a severely arthritic wing in late 2001 and is now in retirement at Cornell University. Jack, left behind with a heavy heart, has had to seek out companionship to weather the cold and blustery days of the Big Apple. Jack has since been joined by Jill. Jill, a new falcon on the scene, has been identified by staff at 55 Water Street and traced to a hacked bird (taught to fly with human aid) from Iowa (Carpenter Nature Center, banded July 25, 1992). We, at 55 Water, hope that you enjoy observing and share in our enthusiasm for these remarkable creatures.

The decline of the Peregrine began after several years of widespread applications of organo-chlorine pesticides (DDT) following WWII. DDT residues causing eggshell thinning altered the reproductive behavior of the falcons and resulted in death. By the early 1960's there were no breeding pairs left in the eastern U.S. down from an estimated 450 pairs. They were placed on both the Federal and State Endangered Species Lists in the early 1970's. Intensive endangered species ordinances were put into place and the species has remarkably recovered. There are 15 territorial pairs of which 13 bred successfully in 2001 in New York City on bridges and buildings. The falcons are drawn to the city by the cliff-like topography of high-rise buildings and by the plethora of food (pigeons, sparrows, starlings, etc.).

The Peregrine, coined nature's most remarkable flying hunter, cruises at speeds of 40 to 55 miles per hour and dives through the air at speeds of 200 mph for a midair attack. The falcon knocks the prey out with its talons, then swoops down to catch the falling bird. Prey that survive the mid-air whack are killed by a tooth-like projection in the upper jaw that dislocates the vertebrae of the prey. These birds, majestic in appearance and unmerciful in dealings with their prey, project an unusually powerful and primitive image in contrast with the cultivated skyline of New York. High above the busy streets of the city they add an air of history and evolutionary calm in a city ruled by hustle & bustle…an uncanny meeting of the epitome of civilization & unfettered nature.

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