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PEREGRINES POP UP: CAN SPRING BE FAR BEHIND?

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Never mind the groundhog. Peregrine falcons have reappeared in downtown Salt Lake City, and spring can't be far behind.

"It's definitely a sign of spring, and they are pretty regular about it," said Bob Walters, Division of Wildlife Resources biologist and resident expert on the downtown peregrines' migratory habits.Walters first spotted a lone peregrine falcon Monday. The following day, an employee in the LDS Church Office Building caught sight of a pair perched on the letters of the Beneficial Life Tower.

It's not clear whether either bird has been here before, and it's too early to tell if they intend to make a downtown building their roost, Walters said.

"In the early days, we tend to wring our hands over whether they will return, so it's always a delight when they show up. This year, they're right on schedule," Walters said.

Over the years, the once-endangered birds have regularly nested in one of two "pre-fab" roosts on a south-facing ledge high up on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at South Temple and Main Street.

Boxes have also been placed on the First Security Bank and Salt Lake Tribune buildings, but the falcons have always spurned those locations.

"They seem to have an affinity to nest sites used the previous year," Walters said.

Peregrines were last seen in the downtown area in October. Where the migratory birds have been since then is "anybody's guess," he said.

The fact that a pair of birds is back and hanging around potential nest sites could indicate they may settle in once again, Walters said. Before that happens, they must go through a courtship and bonding process, he explained.

Local bird watchers have been hoping for a reappearance by "Perry," a male peregrine falcon who has been the main attraction in downtown Salt Lake City since 1985. While it's possible Perry will be back, Walters said, "He's a pretty old bird now and you have to wonder if he's still alive and if he might be replaced as the leader."