Wildlife officials concerned after famous female falcon found in distress near Temple Square

Posted at 6:26 PM, Apr 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-03 20:28:57-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Each spring, the famous peregrine falcons make their debut on a live camera in downtown Salt Lake City, and many Utahns love to watch them grow and raise a family. In just a few days, that camera will be turned on. But this year, there might not be any baby birds to see.

The peregrine falcons have been using the nesting box at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Downtown Salt Lake City for decades, but now just before nesting season the female falcon is gone and the Department of Natural Resources said it's uncertain if any falcons will hatch here this year.

"The bird is sick, it has some problems," said Bob Walters, Watchable Wildlife Program Coordinator for the DNR.

After years of nesting high above the buildings of Salt Lake City, the adult female peregrine falcon was found on the ground and in distress by Temple Square security earlier this week. She is now in rehabilitation.

"From what I've heard so far is she's significantly weakened, it'd be a mistake to put a bird out there like that; it would probably kill her," Walters said.

The DNR will get results of the bird's blood sample to find out what exactly is wrong, hopefully by Monday. But Walters said she won't make a return to the nest this year. Leaving the male to find anther mate.

"Right now it's pretty much up to him," Walters said. "He basically has selected this territory, drawn in a mate and he's going to have to do that again in order for there to be another successful nesting season."

Walters said that means there might not be any baby falcons flying over the city come late spring. And nothing on the live cam.

"You watch them hatch, you watch them grow, you watch them fledge," said Liz Shubert, a volunteer and falcon blogger.

Shubert has been blogging about the falcons since 2008.

"I do think people get very attached to the bird, especially when something happens and there's an injury," Shubert said.

Now she, and other falcon fans, are crossing their fingers the female recovers and the male finds a mate for the season.

"Hopefully he was here enough last year that he will be able to bring a mate to this nesting here," Shubert said.

The DNR hopes to know more when the falcon cam goes live next week.

"It's a little bit like opening a wrapped gift: You really don't know what you're going to find in there," Walters said.

This is the ninth year they've had the peregrine falcon cam. It is set to go live Monday. You can view it here.