Mayo Clinic Peregrine Falcon Program – Celebrating 32 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.
Note to viewers: When viewing the falcon cam, you may notice that the image freezes for periods of time. We are aware of the issue and have done all we can remotely to correct it. We cannot access the camera itself now without disturbing the falcons. We apologize for the inconvenience.
News from the Nesting Box
The adult peregrine falcons are named Hattie and Orton, the resident pair since 2016. Hattie is four years old and is named in honor of Hattie Damon Mayo, the wife of Dr. William J. Mayo. Her name means "keeper of the hearth and ruler of her household." Orton is a 5-year-old male. He fledged from City Hall in Minneapolis and is named for the Minnesota town where the rose granite used in City Hall was quarried.
June 20 - Blizzard was seen on the roof of the Mayo Building mid-afternoon, doing just fine and in close proximity to her parents.
June 19 - At 42 days old, Blizzard left the nest box at 7:30 p.m. for her first flight. During the past few days, Hattie and Orton had been working with her to prepare her for this adventure. We won't see the birds on camera as often now, but we may hear them as they teach Blizzard to fly and hunt for herself.
June 18 - Blizzard is often venturing out onto the ledge of the nest box and testing how the wind feels underneath her wings. She may attempt flight later this week.
June 12 - It's amazing to see how much Blizzard has grown and changed in color during the last week. Within the next week to 10 days, it's very likely that she will make her first attempts at flight.
June 5 - Blizzard is changing every day, and is curious about what is beyond the nest box. Don't worry; there is a ledge beneath the nest box that is not seen on camera. If Blizzard tumbles off the ledge, she won't fall very far.
June 3 - Blizzard is growing quickly! She is more speckled now and will become more brown in color over the next two weeks.
May 29 was a big day in the life of our falcon chick. At 21 days old, it was time for the chick to be banded and named. The chick was removed from the nest box and brought to Geffen Auditorium in the Gonda Building.
The audience watched as Jackie Fallon from the Midwest Peregrine Society attached an identification band to each leg of the chick. Jackie announced that the chick was a strong, healthy female. Logan Allison, a young falcon fan from Waterloo, Iowa, was invited on stage to draw a name from the more than 500 suggestions submitted, and the name "Blizzard" was chosen for the young chick. Blizzard was returned to the nest box where Hattie and Orton will continue to provide food as she prepares for fledge.
The chick is no longer in need of being brooded so Hattie and Orton are spending less time in the nest box now, except for times of feeding. Blizzard is also in less need of frequent feedings and we will begin to see her self-feed within the week.
May 22: The past few days have been windy and rainy, but Hattie and Orton are keeping the chick well-protected from the elements. Here's a look at feeding time at 9 a.m. today.
May 20: Our little one is growing fast. At 13 days old, the chick can be seen much more often on the camera as Hattie and Orton will sometimes leave it unattended in the nest box for short periods of time. The chick is quite curious about its surroundings!
May 13: It's been nearly a week since the first egg hatched and that chick is doing very well. Hattie diligently cared for and protected the young chick throughout the cold, wet weather we had last week. It appears that the other three eggs will not hatch; the eggs will be removed from the nest box on the date of the Banding Event, May 29.
May 7: The first egg has hatched!
April 29: Hattie and Orton are diligently caring for their four eggs, taking turns around the clock. If all goes well, we can expect hatch to begin around May 6.
April 4: Hattie and Orton now have four eggs to care for.
April 2: We now have three eggs in the nest box.
April 1: The second egg was laid over the weekend.
March 28: We have the first egg!
March 25: This photo (right) was taken around noon, showing Hattie and Orton at the nest box. We could see the first egg any day.
March 19: It appears that there are now only two birds on territory. Jackie Fallon from the Midwest Peregrine Society has confirmed that the female is Hattie and the male is Orton.
February 20: Three birds were observed on territory. Hattie and Orton were both back and actively defending the site from a third bird.
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. Changes are coming to the Mayo Clinic Television Network, so by mid-spring 2019, look for the falcon channel under the "Relaxation/Music" category.
- 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.
May 13 and 20
June 3, 10, 17 and 24
May: Name those Chicks – After the eggs are hatched, it’s a Mayo Clinic tradition to name the baby chicks. Submit your suggestions for male, female or gender-neutral names to HeritageDays@mayo.edu by 4 p.m. CDT on May 22.
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.
2019 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.
The 2019 Banding Event will take place on Wednesday, May 29, 10 a.m., in Geffen Auditorium, Gonda Building subway level.
2018 in Review
The spring of 2018 looked promising for the Mayo Clinic Peregrine Falcon Program.
On March 21, Jackie Fallon from the Midwest Peregrine Society confirmed that Hattie and Orton, the 2017 nesting pair, were in residence in downtown Rochester. By April 2, Hattie had laid four eggs, and she and Orton took turns incubating them in the nest box atop the Mayo Building. All four eggs hatched in early May. Hattie and Orton diligently cared for them, providing food and keeping them warm. However, on May 11, the four chicks appeared to be struggling, and by early evening each one had died. The remains were removed from the nest box the next day and sent to a wildlife diagnostic lab in Madison, WI, for study.
The lab’s report was received on June 18, indicating that one suspected cause of death was poisoning. The source of the potential toxin is unknown; Mayo Clinic does not use poisons for pest control on the Rochester campus.
Jackie Fallon of the Midwest Peregrine Society said, “Although the loss is hard to watch, death occurs frequently in nature. 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.”
Another concern was the health of Hattie and Orton. However, they continued to remain in the area and appeared to be healthy.
We are now looking forward to a successful effort in 2019.
- 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.
Where are they now?
A look at some friends from the Mayo Clinic Peregrine Falcon Program
Sota - Hatched from Mayo Clinic in 1994, he was found in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1998, nesting with a female named Meg. They stayed together until 2005. Then Sota partnered with Jill (at right) from 2006-2012. In his lifetime, Sota produced 34 chicks. Along with being a prolific father, he was quite a survivor, since when he was found in 1998 he was missing four of his eight toes (and doing just fine).
We suspect that frostbite caused the loss of the toes since he was known to spend winters in the city. The loss of the digits didn't cause him any difficulties. He was an excellent provider to his mate and offspring. Sota lived to be nearly 19 years old. (Photos copyright Midwest Peregrine Society and used with permission)
Triumph - Fledged at Mayo Clinic in 2013, Triumph was the father of three chicks (shown at right) in 2018 in the nest box at 33 South Sixth Street Tower (formerly International Multifoods Tower) in Minneapolis. Triumph had been spotted in downtown San Antonio, Texas, during the winter of 2017, and then he journeyed back to Minneapolis, where he and Genie had nested since 2016.
Generose - A 2017 fledge, Generose 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.
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!
Enjoy this film about the falcons of Mayo Clinic: