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Published October 21, 2013, 12:27 PM

Grand Forks peregrine falcon takes wing again

George the peregrine falcon from Grand Forks took flight again last week, a month after he mysteriously stopped flying.

By: Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald

George the peregrine falcon from Grand Forks took flight again last week, a month after he mysteriously stopped flying.

He was taken to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center in St. Paul in mid-September after he turned up grounded at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Since now is about the time he would migrate and leave his parents' hunting territory, the Raptor Center released him down in the Twin Cities instead of bringing him back to Grand Forks, said Julia Ponder, the center's executive director.

George's sister Stella was also grounded last month, but she only needed to stay at the Raptor Center for two weeks before being released back in Grand Forks. The cause of her inability to fly was unknown as well.

The two are members of a peregrine falcon that have nested for several years on UND's water tower.

Working theory

George was thin and dehydrated when he came to the Raptor Center but otherwise there seemed nothing wrong with him, according to Ponder.

The center does see birds that can't fly occasionally and the reasons are often not clear, she said.

Ponder theorized that the birs simply hurt themselves in a way that doesn't leave a mark -- maybe they struck a window and got stunned -- and couldn't hunt.

"For you or I, we lay in bed and somebody brings food and we get better," she said. "For birds, if they can't hunt they can get down pretty quickly."

A week-long injury could prove very dangerous, especially for a novice hunter like George, she said.

He, Stella and a third sibling, Anson, hatched this year.

Ponder said the first year is the most dangerous for peregrine falcons, the rough rule of thumb being only half will survive. It's possible the survival rate is actually even worse, she said.

After the first year, they tend to do much better.

Return flight

It's unlikely George or Stella would return to Grand Forks after the winter, according to Ponder.

That hunting territory belongs to their parents, Terminator the matriarch and an unnamed male who arrived here this past summer.

After they can fly and start to hunt on their own, young peregrine falcons usually hang around their parents' territory and get help hunting before their first migration, according to Ponder.

When they head back north in the spring, they'll usually come back to the general vicinity of the area they hatched in, but will try to carve out their own territory.

Territory size can range from a few miles to more than a dozen miles. Scientists say it may be based on how much game is available.

Most of Terminator's children are not accounted for, but Eve, hatched in 2011, was found injured in St. Paul in May, according to the Midwest Peregrine Society's database. The Raptor Center treated and released her near Alexandria in June.

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