Mayo Clinic Peregrine Falcon Program – Celebrating 31 Years

Since 1987, falcons have found a home on top of the tall buildings of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

During nesting season (approximately mid-March to late June), this page features a live camera with 24/7, real-time views of where they live and raise their young. Throughout the year, this page features a film about peregrine falcons and their activities at Mayo Clinic.

 

Enjoy this film about the falcons of Mayo Clinic:

Mayo Falcon Program Promo

RECENT UPDATE:

June 18, 2018

According to a report from a wildlife diagnostics lab in Madison, Wisconsin, one suspected cause of death of Mayo's falcon chicks is poisoning.  The source of the potential toxin is unknown.  Mayo Clinic does not use poisons for pest control on the Rochester campus.

"Although the loss is hard to watch, death occurs frequently in nature," says Jackie Fallon of the Midwest Peregrine Society.  "With toxicity as a suspected cause of death, it is a reminder how poisons are an indiscriminate killer and, if used, the wide range of effect they can have on species in the area."

A test of whether a viral infection could have caused the hatchlings' demise is pending.  

The adult pair, Hattie and Orton, have been seen in the area and appear to be healthy.

June 4, 2018

We are happy to share some good news:  Triumph, a male that fledged at Mayo Clinic in 2013, is the father of three chicks this year. 

The nest box is located at 33 South Sixth Street Tower (formerly International Multifoods Tower) in Minneapolis.  You may recall that Triumph was spotted in downtown San Antonio, Texas, during the winter, and then he journeyed back to Minneapolis, where he and Genie have nested since 2016.  Congratulations, Triumph and Genie! 

May 22, 2018

We're happy to report that both Hattie and Orton, the adult falcons, have been seen in the area and are apparently healthy!   Thanks to all who have kept an eye on the skies and have reported seeing the birds.  

May 15, 2018

After consultation with Jackie Fallon from the Midwest Peregrine Society, here is what the Mayo Clinic Heritage Days team has learned to date about Hattie, the female falcon; Orton, the male falcon; and the chicks:

1. What happened to the chicks?  We do not know the cause of death.  The remains have been transported to a wildlife diagnostics laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, for study and possible determination of death.  Results are expected within two to three weeks and will be shared, as they become available.

2.  Has this ever happened at Mayo before?  No. Since the inception of the Mayo Clinic Peregrine Falcon Program in 1987, Mayo has never lost an entire brood of falcon chicks.

3.  Will Hattie lay more eggs this year?  No.  Adult falcons can lay eggs again only if something happens to the initial clutch within the first two weeks.  

4.  What happens to Hattie and Orton now?  The adults have been strongly committed to this territory, and the Heritage Days team hopes that they will remain in the area.  It's possible that Hattie and Orton can be seen occasionally in the nest box, although they will spend less time there now.

  

May 14, 2018

Mayo Clinic has reactivated the falcon cam in the hope that we can monitor the well-being and activities of Hattie and Orton, who have remained on territory.

Unfortunately, the four falcon chicks died on Friday, May 11.  The remains were removed from the nest box on the weekend and have been sent to a wildlife diagnostic lab in Wisconsin for study and possible determination of cause of death.  Results may not be available for two to three weeks.  We know that the Mayo Clinic falcons have been important to many people, and we will share more information as soon as possible.

 

May 11, 2018 (7 p.m.)

Mayo Clinic has turned off the live falcon cam after it was discovered that the four falcon chicks have likely died.  The cause of their deaths is unclear.  Mayo is in contact with Jackie Fallon from the Midwest Peregrine Socieity and will continue to monitor the situation.  An update is expected next week.  The Mayo Clinic Heritage Days team thanks all who have followed Hattie, Orton and their chicks so faithfully this spring and we share in the sadness of these latest developments.  

 


View More Updates from 2018

 

Meet the Nesting Pair

The adult female is Hattie and the adult male is Orton.  Hattie and Orton occupied this nest box in 2017 and we're thrilled that they have returned.  Hattie is 3 years old.  She fledged in 2015 from the Mayo Building on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  She was named "Hattie" in honor of the wife of Dr. William J. Mayo, one of the founders of Mayo Clinic.  Her name means "keeper of the hearth, ruler of her household."  

Orton is 4 years old.  He fledged from City Hall in Minneapolis and was named "Orton" after the town where the rose granite used in that building was quarried.  Orton is lighter in color than Hattie.  

 

2018 Calendar

In addition to this website, here’s how you can find out more about the falcons:

  • Monitor and informational display in the subway (below-ground) level of the Mayo Building in Rochester, Minnesota, next to the patient cafeteria.
  • Channel 199 and 706 (HD) on the Mayo Clinic Television Network for patients on our Rochester campus.
  • Look up! In spring and summer, falcons are a frequent sight in the skies over Rochester.

As winter turns to spring, we will follow the falcons throughout their nesting season:

Early February: Settling In – One male and one female falcon take up residence in the nest (actually, a special box we built for them) on the roof of the 20-story Mayo Building. Between late March and mid-April, the female lays 2 to 4 eggs.

Early to mid-May: A New Generation – Eggs typically hatch 35 days after they are laid. They grow rapidly and fledge (make their first attempt at flight) at about 6 weeks of age.

Meet the Falcon – From 9 to 11 a.m. on the Mondays in the late spring/early summer, a naturalist from the Midwest Peregrine Society visits Mayo Clinic with an adult falcon.

Please note that this program is intended for Mayo Clinic patients while they are on campus to receive care and Mayo employees. Due to issues of privacy and security, we cannot accommodate tour groups and members of the public.

2018 Dates

May 7, 14 and 21
June 4, 11, 18 and 25

May: Name those Chicks – After the eggs are hatched, it’s a Mayo Clinic tradition to name the baby chicks.

Late May/Early June: Banding Day – We announce the names and young falcons receive their identification bands. Please note that this program is intended for Mayo Clinic patients while they are on campus to receive care and Mayo employees. Due to issues of privacy and security, we cannot accommodate tour groups and members of the public.

Summer-Fall: Follow the Falcon – The young falcons progressively develop under the watchful eyes of their parents, until they take flight to pursue independent lives. The parents, which mate for life, depart as well.

Year-Round: Check the online database of all banded Midwest peregrine falcons at http://midwestperegrine.umn.edu/?vw=search. Type “Mayo Clinic” in the search field to find falcons that were banded at Mayo.

View More Updates from 2018

See all updates from the 2018 nesting season:

April 25, 2018:  All is well in the nest box atop the Mayo Building in downtown Rochester.  We expect to see the first egg hatch toward the end of next week -- possibly around May 4 or 5. 

April 17, 2018:  The weekend snowstorm resulted in snow in the nest box and a few icicles as well, but this snapshot shows Orton safe and sound, incubating the eggs.  

 

April 2, 2018:  Hattie laid a fourth egg on Saturday, March 31.   Falcons typically lay 2 to 4 eggs, which hatch about 35 days after they are laid.  Peregrine eggs are about the size of a small chicken egg.  They range from a lightly speckled cream color to a dark brick red/brown color.  

Hattie's job is to incubate the eggs, keeping them at about 100 degrees.  Orton is now responsible for hunting, making sure he provides enough food for both Hattie and himself.  However, Orton does take turns in the nest box, incubating the eggs while Hattie takes a break.

March 28, 2018: Hattie now has three eggs!  She laid her third egg on Wednesday, March 28.  

One behavior that many people find unusual is that the female doesn't begin incubating the eggs right away.  That's perfectly normal for peregrines.  Hattie will begin incubating when the next to last egg is laid.  Before then, she will mostly leave the eggs uncovered.  The eggs can survive just fine unless the temperature drops below freezing.  If that happens, Hattie will sit on the eggs just to keep them warm enough to stay viable. 

March 27, 2018: Hattie laid her first egg on March 23 and has since laid a second egg.  This is earlier than in 2017, when Hattie laid her first egg on March 31. 

March 21, 2018: Jackie Fallon from the Midwest Peregrine Society confirmed that both Hattie and Orton, last year's nesting pair, are in residence.  The other female has not been seen recently, but still may be in the area.  Please note the well-defined nest depression (scrape) in the box.  The falcons are making preparations for laying eggs, which could happen by the end of the month.  In 2017, Hattie laid her first egg on March 31.  

March 13, 2018:  Hattie and Orton, last year's nesting pair, are in this area, but there is a second female on territory as well.  Hattie was holding her off from the immediate Mayo Clinic campus but the other female (unbanded) is not giving up yet.  

March 1, 2018:  Four falcons have been observed here, fighting for occupancy in this territory.  Three of the birds are banded but they have not perched long enough for anyone to read the bands. 

 

2017 Updates

See all updates from the 2017 nesting season: 

July 25: We have received a report that all three chicks are alive and doing well. At one month since fledge, the chicks are starting to hunt for themselves and will soon be leaving the Mayo Clinic territory.

We have enjoyed watching Hattie and Orton all spring, and have been thrilled to see the progress of their three offspring, Generose, Epic and Lucky Lindy. Thanks to all our loyal falcon fans for following the Mayo Clinic Peregrine Falcon Program during its 30th anniversary year.


Enjoy these photos of the chicks when they were banded and named on June 1, 2017:

Generose (female, left) isnamed for Sister Generose Gervais,the fifth and final Sister administrator of Saint Marys Hospital.

Epic (female, at right) - named for the Plummer Project - Epic Implementation, the largest practice initiative ever undertaken by Mayo Clinic.

Lucky Lindy (male, shown below left) - the nickname of Charles Lindbergh, Minnesota native who collaborated with Mayo's aero-medical unit in World War II, which developed the G-suit, high-altitude oxygen mask and other innovations. 2017 marks the 90th anniversary of Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight.

 

June 26: All three chicks have fledged! We have occasionally seen one or two of the fledglings return to the nest box which has been their home, but they are spending more and more time away from it now. They are most likely nearby, although out of view of the falcon cam. (The white spots you see on the image are specks of moisture on the camera lens.) This is the time when the fledglings -- Generose, Epic and Lucky Lindy -- are fine-tuning their flight skills. They also chase their parents for food and even make attempts at catching their own.

June 22: Epic, one of the females, fledged and has been spending time outside the nest box, along with Generose. You may occasionally see one of the fledglings on the roof of the nest box as they are becoming more comfortable leaving the box that has been their home. Lucky Lindy, the male, is the youngest of this brood and has not yet fledged.

 

June 19: One of the three falcon chicks fledged this morning. Generose, one of the two females, made her first attempt at flight and was on the roof near the nest box. We can expect Epic and Lucky Lindy to fledge within the next week. Hattie and Orton will continue to provide food for the chicks for the next month or so and continue to stand guard, chasing away threats to the chicks. In the photo below, taken at 9:45 a.m. on June 19, Epic is perched on the edge of the nest box while Lucky Lindy is inside the box. You will still hear them begging for food whenever their parents are near -- it seems like they can never get enough!

June 13: The three falcon chicks are growing like weeds and will be taking their first flights within the next week. It's always amazing how quickly they grow in such a short period of time. With these growth spurts the chicks also spend a lot of time sleeping, especially when the weather is warm and humid. Once the chicks are about 4 weeks old, the adults spend less and less time in the box. At this age, the chicks can feed themselves (although the adults bring the food) and feeding time becomes a feeding frenzy! Don't worry -- the adults are still standing guard and are actively chasing away any threats to the chicks. The chicks are eating LOTS of food, so both adults are now out hunting for the three hungry mouths, plus hunting enough food for themselves, too. This is why you may often hear the chicks begging for food -- it seems like they can never get enough!

June 1: The three chicks were given identification bands and names today. We are pleased to announce their names: Generose (female) - named in honor of Sister Generose Gervais; Epic (female) - named for the Mayo Clinic Plummer Project - Epic Implementation; and Lucky Lindy (male) - honoring Charles Lindbergh, famous aviator from Minnesota, and the 90th anniversary of his historic trans-Atlantic flight.

May 13: All three eggs have hatched, and Hattie and Orton are now busy caring for their chicks, feeding them and keeping them warm. If all goes well, we will band and name the chicks during a special event on Thursday, June 1. In the meantime, enjoy watching the activities of this new family of falcons.

May 10 - Mayo welcomed its first chick of the 2017 nesting season. The other two eggs will, hopefully, hatch over the next day or two. If all goes well, we plan to band and name the chicks in about three weeks. Stay tuned for details on the date and time, but for now, enjoy watching Hattie and Orton care for their chick.

April 5 - May 10 - Hattie and Orton are actively incubating their three eggs. The female does most of the incubation of the eggs, only getting off them briefly for a few hours each day. During that time, Orton takes over the duties to keep the eggs at a constant temperature. While Hattie is busy keeping the eggs warm, Orton does all of the hunting for himself and the female. Three to four eggs are the typical number laid in the clutch. With Hattie and Orton, true incubation began when egg #2 was laid on April 2. We can expect hatch to occur approximately 33 to 35 days later, so keep an eye on the falcon cam around May 5. It can take up to 24 to 36 hours for a chick to full hatch once it has "pipped" through its shell.

April 2 - Hattie laid a second egg this evening. She now seems to be staying closer to the nest box.

March 31 - Hattie laid her first egg at 12:54 p.m. We will be monitoring to see if more eggs are on the way!

March 27 - A puncture wound below Hattie’s right eye appears to be healing. There is no sign of the other female on territory.Hattie in the nest box atop the Mayo Building.

March 24 - Observed an injury on Hattie’s right eye. We will monitor it for infection.

March 13 - A territorial battle was observed: Hattie and an unbanded adult female are vying for this nest box.

 

Falcon Facts

Mayo Clinic Falcon Program

  • The peregrine falcon is a raptor – a bird of prey that hunts and feeds on other animals, typically birds.
  • The peregrine falcon is a crow-sized bird (1-2.5 lbs.) with long, pointed wings. Young birds, which are brown and cream colored, are heavily marked with streaks. Adults have a blue-gray back with a light, striped underside and a dark-colored head.
  • Its Latin name, Falco peregrinus, means “wanderer.”
  • The male is about one-third to one-half smaller than the female.
  • The birds typically mature at two years and can live to nearly 20 years old.
  • Peregrine falcons can migrate more than 15,000 miles per year.
  • The peregrine falcon is the fastest member of the animal kingdom, able to reach speeds over 200 mph in spectacular dives called a “stoop.” It lives on every continent except Antarctica.
  • The falcon has long been associated with European and Middle Eastern royalty. Records of the sport of falconry (using a trained raptor to hunt wild game) date back more than 4,000 years.
  • Historically, the peregrine falcon preferred to nest on high cliffs near water. Today, the bird is also found on towers, bridges, and tall buildings such as those found on the Mayo Clinic campus in downtown Rochester.

Mayo Clinic and the Stewardship of Nature

The Mayo brothers, Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie, often said they grew up in medicine “the way farm boys are taught to farm.” All their lives, they shared a deep appreciation of nature. Dr. Will was an early advocate of efforts to clean the Mississippi River. Dr. Charlie made Mayowood, his country home, a preserve for many species of wildlife. The Sisters of St. Francis, who founded Saint Marys Hospital and are active in many activities at Mayo Clinic and beyond, uphold a reverence for nature.

When DDT was banned in 1973, recovery efforts began for many threatened species, including the peregrine falcon. In a program that has grown steadily over the years, captive-bred chicks are released, monitored and tracked as they learn to fly and become independent.

At the invitation of the not-for-profit Midwest Peregrine Society, Mayo Clinic began hosting the falcons in 1987. Mayo’s Peregrine Falcon Program is a popular annual activity, involving the support and collaboration of many colleagues. Some patients tell us they schedule their medical appointments in order to be on campus when the falcons are in residence!

Name the Falcon and Banding Day 

Banding Day is a very special event in the lives of the young chicks. Naturalists working with the Mayo Clinic team carefully remove the falcon chicks from the nest box on top of the Mayo Building and bring them to Geffen Auditorium. There, they are given a quick physical assessment and a metal identification band is placed around each fledgling's leg. Each band is uniquely lettered and numbered so that if the falcons are observed later, they can easily be identified. Before returning the bird to the nest box, their official names are announced. 

Details about the 2018 event will be shared when available.  

Where are they now?

You might be wondering what has happened to some of the falcons that fledged from Mayo CTriumph in downtown Minneapolis, March 2018linic.  

  • March 27, 2018:  Triumph, a 2013 Mayo fledge, has been seen at 33 South Sixth (formerly the International Multifoods Tower) in Minneapolis.  He had been seen during the winter months in downtown San Antonio, Texas. Triumph (shown at right) has nested at the Multifoods Tower the past few years. 
          
  • February 20, 2018: We have learned that Generose, a 2017 fledge, was found deceased in Marshalltown, Iowa, in October 2017.   

Check the online database of all banded Midwest peregrine falcons at http://midwestperegrine.umn.edu/?vw=search. Type “Mayo Clinic” in the search field to find falcons that were banded at Mayo.