By Matt Nauman and Jennifer Robison
SAN FRANCISCO — Three peregrine falcon chicks that hatched atop the PG&E building earlier this month were banded today (June 29) by researchers.
Glenn Stewart, director of the University of California Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, checked the health of the birds and applied the bands. Once the birds leave the nest, and perhaps downtown San Francisco, bird watchers will be able to see the banding number and share the location.
The birds will begin learning to fly in the next three weeks.
While Stewart’s bands have numbers and letters for identification, PG&E is asking its customers to help name the baby birds — two females and a male. Customers can submit names using the hashtag #PGE4Me on Twitter and Instagram, or by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is Friday, July 7. The names will be picked and announced the following week.
Last year, a Los Gatos kindergarten class named the birds Talon, Grace and Flash.
Falcon fans throughout PG&E’s service area and throughout the world have been able to watch the birds and their parents via a webcam (www.pge.com/falconcam). For the 2017 falcon season, PG&E installed a new HD camera that enhanced the webcam viewing experience and provided audio for the first time. Since May 1, nearly 40,000 viewers have clicked in to watch the falcons.
At the conclusion of the banding, Anne Jackson with PG&E’s Environment Policy department presented a grant check for $10,000 to Stewart and his organization for continuing education and outreach. PG&E has provided more than $260,000 in grants to the PBRG since the 1970s. .
Stewart said the grant will fund several important functions.
“We have a science-based program that combines research and public education. We emphasize conservation in the community. I know PG&E is interested in conservation as well, and the peregrine is the perfect ambassador because it’s an iconic species. People see the peregrine in urban environments and they become interested. That interest often turns into hobbies like bird-watching, or into species-focused interests that may make them better voters for the environment. And that’s really what it’s all about in terms of longevity of wildlife, habitat and the planet,” Stewart said.
Falcons have been nesting on PG&E’s 77 Beale Street headquarters most years since 2004.
“Why they choose the nesting places they choose is such a big question,” Stewart said. “For one thing, we’ve put a gravel tray up there. But they chose the building. There are lots of other buildings around, but there’s something about the orientation of this building to the sun, the wind and the bay that’s right for them.”
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 UC Santa Cruz PBRG, the species has been saved. There are now about 300 pairs of peregrine falcons in California.
The fastest animal species on earth, falcons have a dive speed of up to 200 mph.
Stewart said the birds’ nearly annual return to PG&E has been a big benefit to the species and his organization.
“PG&E has been supporting us since the mid-1970s with money and materials for research into peregrine falcons and bald eagles,” he said. “Having a consistent funder is a big deal for a nonprofit organization. We’ve had a good partnership over the years, and that’s extremely important. I’m glad the falcons chose the PG&E building.”
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