The Mayo Building in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, has 21 floors, with most of this space dedicated to providing expert medical care to people from around the world. High atop this tower — on the roof, in fact! — is a small, boxy maternity ward that specializes in incubation and egg hatching.
In 1992, the peregrine falcon nesting box at Mayo Clinic celebrated its first successful nesting, when a single male falcon hatched. Since then, 70 falcon chicks have hatched at Mayo Clinic — with some of them finding mates and nesting in places such as Minneapolis, St. Paul and as far away as St. Louis, Missouri.
Fun fact: Peregrines are some of the most migratory birds in the world and can live almost anywhere. Hattie and Orton, the peregrine falcons that have lived at Mayo Clinic since 2016, do not migrate. Why do some falcons migrate extensively, while others don’t migrate at all? No one knows!
And the chicks keep hatching!
After about five weeks of incubation, the first peregrine falcon chick of 2022 arrived May 3. Three more siblings hatched between May 3 and 5. All four chicks are now under the care of their parents, Hattie and Orton, in the Mayo Clinic nest box.
The chicks consume very little food the first few days after hatching, but they eat every few hours — both day and night. While Hattie is busy brooding and feeding the chicks in the Mayo Clinic nest box, Orton is looking for enough food for Hattie and their new family. By the time the chicks are 7 to 10 days old, both adults will need to hunt for food, because the chicks will be eating nearly 100% of their body weight every day. Watch the live Falcon Cam to see how fast they grow — from newly hatched chicks weighing 30 grams each to nestlings that will be almost three-quarters of the size of adult falcons on banding day, when they are approximately 21 days old.
Fun fact: Peregrines are the fastest animals on earth! They can fly more than 240 mph (386 kph) in a dive.
Taking first flight
When the chicks are about 6 weeks old, they take their first flight, or fledge. This can be a dangerous time for the chicks, but it’s also an important step in becoming an adult falcon. They begin to learn how to catch their own food by chasing things that fly or chasing their parents if they have food. This game of “tag” also serves as an important hunting lesson.
When a chick is taking its first big jump from a rooftop or a cliff ledge, it’s a time of great and possibly dangerous learning. The young peregrines — now called fledglings — have to learn how to use their wings and legs in the wind currents, and learn fast! They also need to learn how to land safely.
Learning to fly isn’t just experiencing its benefits, but also encountering possible dangers for the first time. Glass windows, power lines, cars and people are all potentially deadly hazards that fledglings must learn to avoid.
Many times, a fledgling will be found sitting on the ground because it doesn’t know how to get back up into the air right away, or it may even be injured. Thanks to the staff at Mayo Clinic, the fledgling will be carefully picked up off the ground, given a quick exam and then returned to a nearby rooftop if it’s not injured.
Would you like to color a drawing of Mayo’s peregrine falcon fledglings taking first flight?
Download and print this page from the new “Taking Flight: The Peregrine Falcons of Mayo Clinic” coloring and activity book.
Fun fact: Birds, including peregrine falcons, have a gland at the base of their tail that contains an oil that helps keep feathers clean, strong and waterproof. Falcons will take a small amount of the liquid from this gland and put it all over their feathers.
Taking Flight: The Peregrine Falcons of Mayo ClinicShop Now