Female peregrine falcon, Stellar, dies

Staff report


Stellar, the mother of many peregrine falcons born in downtown Youngstown, including this year’s brood, has died.

Late Monday afternoon, Stellar was found in poor condition with an injured leg in the police parking compound under the Market Street bridge, according to Kathy M. Zook of Mecca, a birdwatcher who frequently observes the raptors here.

Heather Merrit of Birds in Flight Sanctuary Inc. said she was called to the parking compound and found Stellar under a car.

“She was very, very thin,” Merrit said. “Probably went a long time without food.”

She said her veterinarian found that Stellar had tendon and ligament damage. She tried to nurse Stellar back to health at her nonprofit sanctuary in Warren, but the falcon died Tuesday morning.

Merrit said she believes Stellar was hit by a car on Market Street and then went over the bridge were it scrambled around for about a week. She said birds who are deprived of food ultimately have liver and kidney failure.

“Stammy [Dad] is going to have to catch more food, but it happens all the time, in the wild, that one parent dies,” Merrit added.

Stammy and Stellar failed in an early nesting attempt this year at the First National Bank Building, but three chicks hatched last month on a fourth-floor law library window ledge at the Mahoning County Courthouse.

Magistrate and Jurist, the names of the newborns, fledged last week, but have difficulty becoming airborne when they are near the ground, Zook said. The third chick, Marshal, fledged Wednesday.

A county deputy sheriff rescued the stranded Magistrate from a street-level courthouse perimeter pit on Friday before the young raptor was released onto the courthouse roof. He was released again, by Merrit, just hours before Stellar was found.

In 2009, Stammy and Stellar also nested successfully at the courthouse after a failed attempt at First National Bank, but, last year’s nesting attempt atop the 17-story International Towers failed.

Two of three birds hatched in 2009 survived, but the third died after being run over by a motor vehicle on the Market Street bridge.

Stammy is named after the Stambaugh building, where he and Stellar had nested for several years.

Damon Greer, assistant wildlife management supervisor at the Division of Wildlife, said Stammy most likely will find another mate during migration this fall and could continue to nest in Youngstown.

“The location of a nest is subject to change,” Greer said. “But I’ve also seen them return to the same nest.”

Peregrines, which eat ducks, pheasants, pigeons and small birds, were driven to near-extinction in the 1960s, when the pesticide DDT interfered with their egg production.

Peregrines staged a comeback after DDT was banned in 1972, and they were upgraded by the federal government from endangered to threatened-species status in 2008.

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