Salt Lake City's young peregrine falcons seem to be a male and a female, experts discovered Monday when they banded the birds.
That could be good news for the reproduction of the endangered species, because in past years, females have been extremely rare from the Salt Lake pair. Of seven previous young, only one was a female.This year's first young peregrine hatched 27 days ago Monday in their nesting box, located on the 10th floor of the Hotel Utah. Interested falcon-watchers can easily see into the box by way of a video camera, which relays a picture to a television set in a first-floor window on South Temple.
The hatching was "very close to four weeks, after all; that's when we like to band," said Bob Walters, a non-game biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Two of the three eggs hatched.
The banding was the occasion for a raucous display by both furious parents, who wheeled and squawked high above South Temple. At one point, one of the adults perched on a cornice of the hotel, wings out threateningly, yelling at the biologists who were trying to band the young.
From a window on the 10th floor, Walters climbed into the nesting box, which was temporarily closed off from the parents by a sheet of cardboard. He handed the babies out one at a time to volunteers.
Although they were balls of fluff less than four weeks ago, now they are the size of chickens - aggressive birds with long talons and loud screams. They are still covered with white baby fluff, but their tail feathers are already out.
Each dug its talons into the fingers of the men holding them, Bob Benton of Wildlife Resources and volunteer falconer Bruce Clements, who works for the Salt Lake County sheriff's department.
The female is larger, and the other bird is presumed to be a male. But its leg width, 9 millimeters, is right on the border between the indications of male and female, so it could be either.
Walters said he would guess it is a male, however.
The newest additions to this raptor family were given their official designations when Walters carefully clamped on the leg bands: No. 98713893 for the smaller one, and 98713894 for the larger.
Walters said they are expected to begin flying about June 17.