A male peregrine falcon chick whose short life roosting in a downtown Phoenix high-rise had been watched by thousands via webcam, has died after falling from its nest.
On Saturday, June 4, the chick that hatched on Mother's Day to great fanfare tumbled from its roost on the 10th floor of the Maricopa County Administration Building in downtown Phoenix, according to the Arizona Game & Fish Department, which had been caring for the bird. The bird was reportedly out of webcam view when it fell.
The chick was X-rayed and examined by a veterinarian who found no sign of serious injury. But a little over an hour after Game & Fish returned it to the nest, the bird died.
"After receiving a positive examination, the peregrine chick was returned to the nest," reads a statement on Game & Fish's "Peregrine Cam" page. "Unfortunately, it appears the trauma of the fall, combined with the unseasonably high temperatures, proved too much for the chick, which has died. It is likely the chick succumbed to an internal injury that was not evident during the earlier exam."
About 40 percent of peregrine falcons don't survive their first year, according to the statement. Falls are not uncommon.
Louise Smith, who created a Facebook page dedicated to the baby peregrine and its family, says she'd begun tuning in to the live feed before the female bird laid its eggs.
"I had it on almost constantly. I watched it all I could," Smith told New Times. “Just being able to look into the life of a peregrine falcon for the first time was pretty exciting.”
Smith said she was crushed when she learned the baby chick had died.
"I was devastated," she said. "I had plans for the rest of the day — I couldn't grieve till I returned later that night. It was very, very sad."
Although the livestream of the birds had gained a sizable online following, Game & Fish shut off the camera for a short period after the chick showed signs of a congenital problem. An agency official told the Arizona Republic at the time that the camera was turned off for the sake of viewers: "We don't want people on a roller coaster, wondering from one day to the next what's going to happen."
The chick was removed from the nest so vets could attach tiny splints to each of its legs to correct splaying and to assist with healing.
The splints had been removed prior to the fall and the chick appeared to be thriving.
Peregrine falcons are not an endangered species and are widespread across the planet. They are renowned for their speed and their hunting prowess.
The birds have roosted in various parts of downtown Phoenix for more than a decade, according to Game & Fish.
Because many of the birds seemed to favor the county administration building on Third Avenue and Jefferson Street, the agency installed a roosting box and camera.
In 2014, a pair of falcons moved into the box and the female laid two eggs, although neither hatched. In late March of this year, the female laid four eggs. Two were cracked and discarded. One failed to hatch.
Scott Lavin, chief of Game & Fish's wildlife recreation branch, told the New Times that the public outpouring of affection for the chick is inspiring.
"This journey has been an amazing learning experience for the department that has brought us an entirely new audience," Lavin says. "We hope that despite the loss, these viewers will continue to learn more about the mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department."
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.