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Mother's Day surprise: Chick hatches to Pittsburgh Peregrine Falcon

| Monday, May 11, 2015, 1:42 p.m.
Dorothy, the peregrine falcon whose nest is atop the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, tends to her new chick as seen in the video still taken by one of the streaming cameras located outside the nest.
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Dorothy, the peregrine falcon whose nest is atop the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, tends to her new chick as seen in the video still taken by one of the streaming cameras located outside the nest.

Dorothy, the 16-year-old peregrine falcon that lives on a ledge at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, became a mother again — on Mother's Day.

“Apparently, she's not beyond child bearing. She's had reduced fertility in the past couple of attempts,” said Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist at the National Aviary.

Dorothy is likely the oldest peregrine in Pennsylvania, he said. She laid four eggs last month, and one hatched Sunday.

The peregrine falcon was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1972 during the rapid decline of the species worldwide.

After the banning of the pesticide DDT, the Peregrine Fund, a nonprofit group, was organized to reintroduce the species into places in North America where it had vanished.

Some of the earliest reintroduction sites included historic nesting areas in Pennsylvania.

The bird has experienced a dramatic recovery.

It was removed from the federal endangered list in 1999 but continues to be listed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as endangered.

A peregrine's average age is 8, Mulvihill said.

In the decades since World War II, peregrines were more ravaged by DDT than the bald eagle, a handful of which survived in the wild.

Except for peregrines in captivity, the birds were not living on their own in North America from 1957 to 1987, said Arthur McMorris, an ornithologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Like Mulvihill, he is surprised by the longevity and fertility of the Pitt peregrine.

“Everything has surprised me this year. It is unusual for a bird this age to be laying eggs. It is not a record. But it would be like a 50-year-old woman giving birth,” he said.

Peregrine chicks stay in the nest until they are about six weeks old. The nest site is active, with fights over food common and mobbing of adults frequent prior to fledging, according to the Canadian Peregrine Foundation.

Young are totally dependent on adults for several weeks after fledging and may remain with them for several months.

Patterns of their dispersal are largely unknown, though satellite-telemetry studies indicate that some falcons spend at least their first winter in Central or South America, according to the Canadian Peregrine Foundation.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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