By Matt Nauman
SAN FRANCISCO — Flash, Talon and Grace have taken their first flights.
The three young peregrine falcons that hatched on April 17 on a 33rd-floor ledge of the PG&E headquarters in the city’s Financial District, tested their wings over the long Memorial Day weekend.
Tens of thousands of nature lovers have been following their progress via a webcam (www.pge.com/falconcam).
Those first flights, and especially the first landings, represent a perilous time in the life of a young falcon. That’s especially true in the bustling downtown of a major city where the ground is 300 feet below, skyscrapers have glass windows, unpredictable winds blow in the canyons between buildings and crows and other species are lurking.
Flash, a male, flew first, following by the two females, Grace and Talon. As sometimes happens, one of them got into some trouble trying to return to the nest box and ended up in the care of San Francisco Animal Control.
This morning (June 1), Glenn Stewart, director of the UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, returned Grace to the 33rd floor. He fed her and wet her feathers before releasing her — both in an effort to make delay her decision to try her next flight.
The birds are now mostly out of camera range, but will continue to be around PG&E’s office and other nearby buildings for a few more weeks.
Falcons have been nesting on PG&E’s 77 Beale Street headquarters most years since 2004. This year, three eggs hatched on April 17.
Their parents, named Dan and Matilda, sat on the eggs to keep them warm and then, once they hatched, fed the birds over the next month as they grew from white fluffballs to full-size falcons with dark feathers.
Stewart banded the young birds on May 9, a few weeks before they were ready to start flying.
On that same day, PG&E announced the names of the birds: Talon, Grace and Flash. PG&E customers were asked to submit names via Twitter or email. More than 160 name entries were submitted; perhaps 600 names in total.
The selected names came courtesy of Heather Wingfield’s kindergarten class at Lakeside Elementary in Los Gatos. The class of 4- and 5-year-olds provided 20 potential names, including the three winning choices.
PG&E has provided more than $260,000 in grants — including $10,000 this year — to the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group since 1998 to support its community outreach and education programs.
Between World War II and the 1970s, the peregrine falcon population nearly disappeared due to toxic chemicals. But, thanks to the Endangered Species Act and the good work of groups like the one that Stewart directs, there are now about 300 pairs of peregrine falcons in California.
Email Matt Nauman at email@example.com.