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About Macomb County

2005 Falcon News


Sad development in Macomb County peregrine falcon story

June 27, 2005 --- Macomb County’s female Peregrine falcon chick, Alexa, was found dead about 8 a.m. Saturday, June 25, on South Main Street near the Administration Building. Alexa apparently was struck by a vehicle, according to Kariann Reno, southeast Michigan falcon coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Despite this unfortunate event, it is not the end of the Peregrine falcon adventure in Macomb County. The father bird, Horus, and the mother, who has been named Hathor, probably will keep the Macomb County Building as their home throughout this year and should give parenting another try in early 2006, Reno said. “This was such a long shot, with this being a first-time pairing of the adults and the next yielding only one viable egg,” Reno said. “Next year, with this experience, the adults could be raising three or four chicks.” Alexa did have her moment of glory Friday evening, June 24, when she took flight for the first time. About 8 p.m. Friday, she was spotted flying from her nest on the County Building toward the Administration Building across the street. Her awkward, rapid wing flapping caused her to lose altitude, but a witness saw Horus and Hathor swoop underneath Alexa with calls of encouragement, and Alexa landed next to the American flag that flies on the roof. Alexa was then spotted making 10 to 15 flights around the Administration Building, which suggests that she was a strong flyer. The three birds rested for a short period, then all three were spotted flying off the Administration Building south about 8:30 p.m. Friday. Reno surmises that Alexa may have been exhausted from her first flight and perched for the night on a guardrail about 2 feet off the ground near the old Bell Forklift Building for the night. About 7 a.m. Saturday, June 25, a county employee checking out the area was startled when he spotted Alexa perched on the rail. The employee retreated around the corner and went to notify co-workers about the bird, Reno said. Before someone could come to the bird’s aid, Alexa attempted to take off. With a large, heavy body and immature wings, she needed a good deal of distance at a low altitude to get into the air, she was vulnerable to being struck by a vehicle. “The volunteer who has been helping me monitor Alexa wanted everyone to know about Alexa’s flight and the dedication of the parents in helping her succeed,” Reno said. “Our Peregrine parents have a strong pair bond and we look forward to next year."


Baby Alexa at 38 Days


June 24, 2005 --- The mother of Macomb County’s Peregrine falcon chick, Alexa, has been identified. She is an unnamed 2 year old bird who fledged from the Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. We’ll just have to call her Alexa’s mom. We do know that she is the daughter of a bird named Dorothy who hails from Milwaukee and a male from Columbus, Ohio. Dorothy hatched and fledged in 1999 at the Firstar Center in Milwaukee and is the daughter of the Midwest's second-most productive female falcon Sibella and her mate Bill. Alexa’s “maternal grandfather” is Erie, who hatched and fledged in 1998 from the Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus and is the son Bandit and his first mate Aurora Red from Aurora, Canada. Baby Alexa is looking much more grown up now. She now has a full covering of fathers and has been spotted out on the ledge of the County Building. According to the DNR, young Peregrines often learn how to fly by standing on the edge of a building or cliff and stretching their wings. Slowly they will begin to allow themselves to lift off the ledge to become comfortable with the feeling of flight. Alexa is expected to begin flying very soon.


Macomb County's Female Peregrine Falcon



The Story of Macomb County's Peregrine Falcons

June 2, 2005 --- The Macomb County Building in downtown Mount Clemens is home to a very rare nesting pair of endangered Peregrine falcons. These Peregrines are unique because this is the first time they've nested, the first time Peregrines have nested in Macomb County and the first-time dad is not fully mature – yet the mating resulted in a chick. The baby falcon was 18 days old when she was banded by officials from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday, June 1. Kariann Reno, southeast Michigan falcon coordinator for the DNR, scaled onto an 11th Floor ledge of the County Building – where the nest is located – to bring the female chick inside for the banding, a blood test and exam. Nancy White, chair of the Board of Commissioners, attended the operation and gave the baby bird a name: Alexa, after Gen. Alexander Macomb.

Baby Alexa at 18 days

“This is truly a historical event for Macomb County,” Reno said. “Once the chick is five to six weeks old, we will start to see Alexa out on the ledge, then soon after we may witness her first flight.” Alexa, born May 14, is the only offspring from what was originally a three-egg nest. For the record, her new color band identification is black P over green 71. Reno determined that Alexa's dad is named Horus (after an Egyptian deity whose name means “He who watches from above”). Horus was born in Akron, Ohio, in 2004. Amazingly, he is an immature bird with immature plumage, meaning he looks different from the adult female. He is more brown and doesn't have a pronounced white chest or cheek patches.

Habitat: Open country, from coastal lowlands to mountainous high country.
Weight: Males, from 1 lb. 4 oz to 1 lb. 9 oz.;
Weight: Females, 1 lb. 14 oz. to 2 lbs. 11 oz.
Length: 15-20 inches.
Wingspan: 43-46 inches.
Life Expectancy: 17-20 years.
Food: Pigeons, waterfowl, crows, jays, starlings and other medium to small birds; occasionally beetles, dragonflies and migrating monarch butterflies.
Status: State endangered. More About Peregrine Falcons:
Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Reno said Horus arrived in Mount Clemens early this year and was first reported in February by Julie Champion, a naturalist at the Metropolitan Beach Nature Center. Horus's father is named Bandit, and Bandit was born in Detroit to Pops, so at least Horus' grandfather hails from Southeast Michigan. Little is known about Alexa's mom, except that she is not a Midwesterner, instead hailing from the East Coast. Her color band was identified, but information about her is not yet available. But she obviously is a mature female due to her adult plumage. Usually, females are identified because they are considerably larger than males. Reno began monitoring both parents on the County Building in March.


Baby Both Parents On The County Building



“They were mating and Horus was feeding the female quite a bit of food, exhibiting lots of pair-bonding behavior,” Reno said. Initially, the DNR thought the Peregrines would choose a nesting site on the southwest corner of the County Building close to Main Street. When the turkey vultures returned to the Administration Building on St. Patrick’s Day, the Peregrines tried to defend the airspace between the two buildings because of the nice thermal updrafts arising from Cass Avenue. But the Peregrines chose the northeast side of the County Building for their nest.

Baby Alexa at 9 Days



“I discovered the first egg on April 5,” Reno said. “Peregrines usually incubate for 34 days, so the due date was between May 9 and 11. “The other two eggs never hatched and were removed from the nest shortly after Alexa hatched. Despite his lack of maturity, Horus has been doing a good job as a husband and father. He’s not only a superb food provider, he also performed “nest relief” – when the male comes into the nest and incubates the eggs while the female stretches her wings.

DNR Prepares to Band Alexa



The Peregrines are finding Mount Clemens an abundant feeding ground, going for the easy pickings of birds that migrate between the county buildings. Sometimes they feed along the Clinton River. They are particularly fond of dove, pigeon, woodcock, flickers, meadowlarks, blue jays, starlings, and even a pied-billed grebe. (Trust us, the DNR, the county’s Facilities & Operations people and other county employees are witnesses). One unique dynamic of the Mount Clemens location has been the presence of the turkey vultures. It’s been Horus’ job to defend the nest against the vultures, and he spends a fair amount of energy doing it. Several times a day, he’s been seen chasing down the big birds.

Mom On The Ledge Overlooking Mount Clemens



“Once, a vulture actually perched on the nesting ledge,” Reno said. “This time, it was mom who rose from the nest and hit the vulture in the chest, and off they went for a chase over the river.”

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