Genders of SJ City Hall chicks revealed

May 16, 2008 1:42:36 PM PDT
Something exciting for you falcon fans out there - Friday morning, we learned the genders of those famed falcon chicks born on top of San Jose City Hall. It took a delicate operation by a U.C. Santa Cruz researcher to get the answer.

There are two females and one male in the nest here on the top of city hall. A UC Santa Cruz researcher also put these bands on the legs of the three birds so they can be tracked. But getting them on was a little painful.

It was the fighting words of a Peregrine Falcon named Carla. The mother was squawking high above downtown San Jose. Researcher Brian Latta repelled into her nest on top of city hall, and she was not happy.

"If she gets a little elevation, it could be dramatic and uncomfortable for Brian," said Glenn Stewart, field biologist, UC Santa Cruz.

Crowds came out to watch as Brian had one close call with Carla. The San Jose city web cam mounted on the nest caught mother bird just missing his head. The researchers faced a similar scene just over a year ago. However, this time there was one key difference, the bird's father, named Carlos, was no where to be seen, possibly out hunting for food.

"No contact this time. Sorry, it wasn't nearly as exciting as last year," said Latta.

The main reason for getting into the nest was to tag the three baby falcons, hatched on April 22nd and also determine the sex of the birds. Researchers do that by measuring the lower leg bone where the band is mounted.

"Females are always larger, and by about a third," said Stewart.

The head count, two females, and one male. Brian grabbed the remaining unhatched egg and brought it down to check for contaminants and also measure the shell's thickness. However, he did not make it out unscathed.

"One of the girls is very aggressive. I got quite chewed up by her. She actually came out and grabbed me and starting biting me on my thumb," said Latta.

More than 18,000 people daily take a look at the falcon cam on the city of San Jose website. And for all you kids out there, the contest to name the three baby falcons ends today. Mayor Chuck Reed says they expect to pick the winning names next week.


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