The most recent additions to New York City’s peregrine falcon population were, by the looks and sounds of it, none too happy to encounter Chris Nadareski over the past few days.
As a research scientist with the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation, it’s Nadareski’s job to climb up to the top of some of the city’s highest landmarks and affix ID bands to the legs of squawking baby falcons — twelve in all this season — while their feathered dive-bomber of a mother circles menacingly overhead. The banding will help keep track of the populations, but the youngsters still put up an unholy fuss.
Peregrine falcons have become a symbol of ecological renewal over the past 40 years, as their numbers have rebounded from near-extinction in the 1970s. The now-banned pesticide DDT was largely responsible for devastating the population across the U.S. (as it did to a host of other birds of prey) by weakening their ability to lay viable eggs.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has participated in a recovery effort since 1983, constructing nesting boxes on high points of the city’s infrastructure. In the wild, the birds nest mostly on the sides of steep cliffs. But here in the greater New York area, they have adopted the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (where Nadareski recently tagged some new arrivals), the George Washington Bridge, and the sides of highrises all over the city. There are at least twelve breeding pairs in the five boroughs, part of a dramatic recovery all over the state and country in recent decades, though they remain on the endangered-species list.
Aside from being a rare success story, the peregrine falcon outshines most every other species in terms of sheer badassery. Aerial hunters, they swoop down on their prey from above, and they’re among the fastest creatures on earth, reaching descending speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. They also have style, with a gray-and-black checked pattern that’s timelessly classy without being ostentatious (they’re not trying to impress anybody, y’know?). And as if that weren’t enough, they prey mostly on other birds, including a significant number of pigeons, so while you’re unlikely to ever see one, if you do, a “thank you” is probably in order.
See the banding in action below, and check out more photos here.