by Sally Blanchard

I used to sculpt birds for a living and was lucky enough to have a showing of them at the Fuertes Library of the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University in 1976. This was a time when the Peregrine Falcon's population was very low because pesticides created problems with egg viability. At the time, Cornell University with other organizations were working to increase their populations. They were using similar falcons like the Lanner Falcon from Europe, Africa, and Asia as foster parents. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the facility and to see the various nesting falcons from afar.

When I was visiting Sapsucker Woods, a baby Peregrine Falcon from the breeding program was kept back to be used to artificially inseminate hens when he grew up. They named him Hot Shot. It was OK if he remained tame and some people were allowed to handle him. I was sitting on the ground with two professionals from the Lab and Hot Shot was in the middle. Although he was just old enough to walk around on his feet a bit, he still seemed more comfortable hobbling around on his hocks. I was in awe of this energetic little guy who was not the least bit uncomfortable with people. I knew it was quite an honor to get to know him up close and personal. He did a combination of a wobble hop over towards me and pooped on my shoe. Now, how many people can claim that a baby peregrine pooped on their shoe? 

Over 40 years later, with the involvement of the Laboratory of Ornithology and other organizations, the Peregrine Falcons have made a wonderful comeback and can now be found throughout the United States. They are especially common hanging out on the tall buildings in the big cities where they thrive on pigeon du jour. Now when I see a Peregrine, I often wonder if the bird is one of Hot Shot's descendants and an example of the 'work' he did to perpetuate his species?




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