Wayne State Peregrine Falcons wrap up 2023 nesting season with rescue from an unlikely hero

Wayne State University's resident Peregrine Falcons have once again captured the hearts of falcon fans during the 2023 nesting season. Since their 2016 discovery perched atop WSU's iconic Old Main clocktower, these fascinating birds have been closely monitored, and this year's events proved no less exciting.

Generous support from donors allowed the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to install a Falcon Cam at the nest site in 2019, providing both the public and scientists invaluable insights into the daily lives and behaviors of the birds of prey. The Wayne State Falcon Cam has become a captivating window into the world of raptors, fostering a growing fascination for urban wildlife conservation.

The 2023 nesting season brought Wayne State a new female falcon named Lillie. Hailing from Port Washington, Wisconsin, where she hatched in 2018, Lillie took over the Old Main nest site with mate Regal in February. Under the watchful eyes of the Falcon Cam, viewers were treated to the spectacle of the couple diligently caring for their four eggs throughout the nesting season. Just three of the eggs successfully hatched, which is not unusual for peregrines.

It takes a village

Each year, the falcons seem to have a new hero. A moment of distress unfolded on June 20, when one of the chicks prematurely fledged the nest, landing in front of the Old Main clocktower. Thankfully, 7-year-old Graham Papuga, son of Wayne State Environmental Science Professor Shirley Papuga, spotted the downed bird while on campus with his mom. Shirley notified WSU biologists and Graham eagerly lent his assistance in the chick's rescue. "Thanks to Graham and Shirley, we were able to act fast and rescue the little guy in record time," said Michelle Serreyn, biologist and Wayne State falcon coordinator.

Graham's quick action did not go unnoticed. In recognition of his help, he was granted naming rights for the young falcon. The chick officially earned the name "Ben," a choice made because "Graham just liked the name Ben," his mother explained.

Graham Papuga stands next to the rescued falcon
Graham Papuga proudly poses after the rescue.

Graham wasn't the only one to come to the falcons' aid this season. Porshe Anderson, an administrative assistant in WSU's Department of African American Studies, was walking to work when she noticed one of the chicks perched on the porch of WSU's Thompson Home. Having followed the @WSUFalcons on Instagram for some time, Anderson swiftly messaged the account for help. The falcon was able to get herself on the roof of a nearby building and soon rejoined her parents on Old Main.

The road to recovery for Ben was made possible through the Michigan DNR and the skilled care of local raptor rehabilitator Dave Hogan. Under his watchful guidance, the young falcon regained strength and the ability to fly. After a few weeks of rehabilitation, Ben was ready to rejoin his family. On July 3, he was successfully reintroduced to the nest site and has since been spotted hunting and flying with Regal, Lillie and his siblings. The chicks will remain in and around campus until the summer when they fledge to find mates of their own.

As the 2023 nesting season concludes, Wayne State reaffirms its commitment to the study and support of these iconic birds of prey. Initiatives like the Falcon Cam and community engagement efforts form part of the university's endeavors to raise awareness about urban ecology and wildlife.

Viewers can keep up with the #WSUFalcons on Instagram and watch them live at go.wayne.edu/falcons.

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