Missouri Department of Conservation biologist rescues peregrine falcon from Jackson County Courthouse basement

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Joe DeBold (right), MDC wildlife damage biologist, was able to rescue a young fledgling falcon on June 7 from the basement of the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City. He had banded it in June from a nest at Commerce Tower. This photo is from a banding event in 2018 at Commerce Tower.

Peregrine falcons are speedy high-flyers and masters of the sky, but they’re not happy in basements.

A young falcon was rescued July 7 from the basement of the Jackson County Courthouse, a skyscraper in downtown Kansas City. Joe DeBold, a Missouri Department of Conservation wildlife damage biologist, was able to net the bird and release it safely as onlookers cheered.

“It’s pretty common to rescue fledgling falcons this time of year,” DeBold said. “But never have I had one in the basement of a skyscraper.”

Workers reported the trapped falcon about 10 a.m. They believe it got into a stairwell where basement doors were open due to ongoing work at the building. Then once in the basement, it couldn’t find its way out.

“It was tired, but still strong,” DeBold said. “I was able to get a net over it on the first try. It did not struggle. I carried it outside to an open area in the parking lot, set it down and let it rest. It finally caught a gust of wind, took flight, and flew out of sight.”

DeBold has worked extensively with MDC’s peregrine falcon recovery program. This is the second time he’s handled this falcon. In early June, he banded the young bird for monitoring purposes. It hatched in May at a nest atop a ledge on the Commerce Tower building in downtown Kansas City.

Peregrine falcons were once extirpated from Missouri due to pesticide damage to eggs and habitat loss. They have been on the state’s endangered species list but are being considered for removal, thanks to a cooperative program by Midwestern state and federal wildlife agencies. Re-introductions and nest boxes placed high on tall buildings in cities or power plant smokestacks have boosted their numbers. Partnerships with private businesses has been crucial.

DeBold and assistants banded 20 young falcons in June that hatched at seven nest locations in the Kansas City metro area. Watching falcon pairs as they tend eggs and raise young, thanks to nest cameras streaming video, is a popular spring pastime in Kansas City. Onlookers at the courthouse on July 7 got a close look.

“People watching were taking pictures and happy to see it fly away,” DeBold said. “Some had tears.”

For more information about peregrine falcons in Missouri, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zrd.

Conservation programs have restored nesting peregrine falcons to Missouri, often in cities with tall buildings that can host next boxes on ledges. The fast-flying falcons feed on birds such as pigeons.