Behind the Scenes at Banding Day of the Peregrine Falcons

Every May, Audubon Society staff and volunteers ascend the Superman Building in Providence to tag newly hatched peregrine falcon chips to help scientists track their movements.

Photography by Peter Green

High atop the Superman Building, new life is testing its wings. Every May, staff and volunteers from the Audubon Society of Rhode Island ascend the state’s tallest building to secure numbered metal bands around the legs of newly hatched peregrine falcon chicks to help scientists track their movements. Since 2000, falcons have nested every year in a custom-built box atop the structure, while thousands watch the birds raise their young via a live feed on the Audubon website. “It’s a great opportunity for people to learn about peregrines. About why they were in decline, about why they’re important to the ecosystem,” says ASRI Executive Director Jeff Hall. The birds lay their eggs in late March or early April, and the hatchlings emerge about one month later. The yearly banding ritual causes no harm to the young falcons, known as eyases, but the parents aren’t convinced: The sky’s fiercest predators frequently divebomb their human visitors, who hold the attackers at bay using brooms and hard hats. “When a peregrine falcon’s flying at you at fifty miles per hour, it can be a little intimidating,” says Hall, who notes the birds can reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour when pursuing prey. By June, the fledglings are ready to fly the nest. Occasionally, a sharp-eyed enthusiast might report a sighting to a national database, providing glimpses into the birds’ later whereabouts. Providence falcons have been spotted and identified by their band numbers as far away as North Carolina.