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Salt Lake City peregrine falcon released on Antelope Island

Published April 3, 2013 11:22 am

Naturalist says peregrine may stay on island or maybe return to downtown SLC place of birth.
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Primo, the peregrine falcon hatched on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City last summer, returned from a winter at a rehabilitation center and was released on Antelope Island State Park during the weekend.

Primo was one of three young falcons to fledge from the famous downtown nest box in the summer of 2012. Some wonder if his name should have been Crash instead.

"Witnesses saw him slam hard into the Zions Bank building," said Bob Walters, watchable-wildlife coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "After about the 10th time of returning him to the nest box, we decided to take him to a facility that would allow people to see if there was something wrong with him."

Walters and other volunteer members of the Peregrine Falcon Watchpost Team arranged for Primo to be sent to the nonprofit Birds of Prey Foundation in Broomfield, Colo., for the winter. JoAnn Stoddard drove the falcon to Colorado and then picked him up late last week after he was judged to be fit for return.

Primo, which Walters said could actually be female, was released by volunteer Mary Lou Emerson near a long-standing peregrine falcon tower on Antelope Island near the Fielding Garr Ranch House.

"Predictably," Walters said, "he went toward the mountains."

Primo was not the only one of his siblings to have a hard time avoiding buildings.

Macy, the second falcon to leave the nest box last summer, crashed into the Key Bank Tower on her second flight attempt and died on impact.

The third young falcon, dubbed Boxer, took a few more days to test her wings and was eventually flushed out of the box by Walters, but ended up being the most successful of the three.

Wendy Wilson, a Utah State Parks naturalist on Antelope Island, said Primo could find a life on the island.

"Peregrines are seen from time to time on the island," she said. "They will nest in the higher, rockier cliffs. Peregrines mainly eat birds, so if Primo sticks around, he may well dine on any of the millions of shorebirds that migrate through."

Walters said Primo may also head back to downtown Salt Lake City, where his parents have already been spotted checking out the nest box in preparation for this year's batch of new peregrines.

People will be able to view the falcons — as the raptors prep the nest and eventually hatch and fledge their eyas — from the long-standing webcams, which have been upgraded to high-definition cameras for better viewing. The cameras are scheduled to be turned on April 8.

Crystal Ross has volunteered for years to help protect, collect and return the young falcons to the nest box each summer during what has become known as Hell Week.

Watching Primo take flight on the island was a special memory.

"I followed Primo and the other two peregrine kids via the webcam from before they were even hatched last spring. When I heard Primo had slammed into a building downtown shortly after fledging, I thought the worst. Usually, there's no turning back from an accident like that," Ross said. "Actually seeing him return to the wild was an experience I won't forget. He flew so proud and smooth, you could tell he was ready to be outside again. He looked right in his element at Antelope Island."


Twitter: @BrettPrettyman —

Watch Primo take flight

Utah State Parks provided The Salt Lake Tribune with video footage of the release. For footage of Primo on YouTube go to http://bit.ly/ZlJvh4. The popular webcams in the nest box on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City are scheduled to be turned on April 8.






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