Custom House’s feathered guests draw a crowd

Published in The Boston Globe May 19 print

Falcon season is in full swing in Massachusetts, and wildlife officials are banding a new batch of chicks before they fly away.

A group of experts climbed to the top of the Custom House Tower in Boston to tag four peregrine falcon chicks, collect feathers, and gather pellets from their nest, said Norman Smith, a raptor expert for Mass Audubon who helped with the banding.

“In about another four weeks, the birds will start to fly around and leave the nest box and start their journey on their own,” he said. “We hope they can actually make it.”

There are three females and one male in the nest, Smith said.

The two bands placed on the chicks’ legs will tell researchers where the birds migrate and how long they live, Smith said. Researchers usually wait until they are three weeks old to band them, he said.

The chicks were also brought down to the hotel lobby to meet about 35 guests before returning to the nest box that towers over the harbor, Smith said. Those who were not able to meet the falcons can watch live video of the nest on one of the hotel’s television channels, he said.

“Most of the people never got to see a peregrine before,” he said. “Some people mentioned it will be something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

Smith said the falcon couple has returned to the tower for the past six years. They started hanging around the box in January, and the first egg hatched in late April, he said.

Peregrines have been nesting at the tower since 1987. There are 33 mating pairs in the state, nine of which nest in downtown Boston, he said.

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