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Peregrine Falcon Babies Hatch on Clayton High-Rise

Attorney Greg Brough is a big fan of birds, and he's on a mission to care for the city-dwelling chicks.

attorney Greg Brough has a special pet project: Caring for the peregrine falcons that have come to call his Fifth Third Center office building home.

On Thursday, Brough presents a pair of binoculars. Using them, it's possible to see the father of the four-falcon family. At the moment, the bird is preening himself atop the Commerce Bank building across the way.

The remaining members of the family are the mother and two chicks. The babies hatched in May and are set to be banded by the Valley Park-based World Bird Sanctuary early this month.

Brough's journey to peregrine parenthood began in late 1991, when he moved into his office. One day, he saw a falcon fly by his 10th floor window.

The bird intrigued him. Brough grew up in Barrington, IL, and attended Elgin Academy. There, a biology teacher started a bird-watching group. He and other students joined. They spent time outdoors on Saturdays looking for a variety of birds.

He has been a fan of ornithology ever since.

Brough put in a call to the bird sanctuary after that initial sighting. A representative at the sanctuary asked whether he would be willing to put a nesting box—a small plywood structure with a gravel floor—at the top of the building for the peregrines. So Brough got permission from the owner of the building and placed the box there.

Twenty years passed with no activity.

Then late last year, Brough discovered that three eggs had been laid in the box. One of them hatched, Brough said, and he dubbed the young bird Trey.

Jeff Meshach, the bird sanctuary's director, asked him to keep tabs on the chick so that it could determine the bird's gender. Female peregrine falcons are generally the size of a crow, Brough said, while males are smaller—the size of a pigeon. Size is important because it determines the size of the band that will be placed on the bird.

Banding time arrived. Brough made arrangements to get people from the sanctuary onto the roof to get Trey. Afterward, when they needed space to work, Brough invited them to his conference room. A number of interns from the bird sanctuary were in attendance.

Trey was placed on his back on top of a towel. Workers drew blood from a vein in his wing in order to track his family history.

A representative of the bird sanctuary asked Brough whether he wanted to hold the falcon. He eagerly accepted. As soon as he began holding Trey, he said, the bird quieted down and stopped squawking and struggling.

Two days later, Brough had quite a scare: A person in a neighboring office contacted him to say Trey had been spotted on the ground outside the building.

Brough figured he would find the bird dead. But that wasn't the case: The had blocked off the alley area in which the bird had landed, and the baby was sitting on the ground looking at a crowd of people standing around him.

Trey's parents, evidently worried, flew overhead.

Brough called Meshach at the bird sanctuary for assistance. Meshach told him to pick up the baby and return him to the nesting box on the roof, so Brough did.

He later saw the baby and its parents flying, so he knows things turned out all right.

Brough hasn't named the two new chicks, but he checks on them about once a week. It's enough to make sure they are OK without disturbing them too much.

It appears the falcons once lived at Interco Corporate Tower and later moved to Fifth Third Center, Brough said. He thinks the peregrine site in Clayton, along with two others in St. Louis within a 5-mile radius, represent the birds' hunting territory. Peregrines can dive at speeds of between 175 mph and 225 mph, he said, and they feed on hundreds of species of birds.

While the birds have a fairly high rate of infant mortality, they can live for more than a dozen years.

The peregrines are a source of entertainment outside of Brough's window, from which he also has seen bald eagles and vultures: Once, as he was telling a client about the birds, the client remarked about seeing feathers floating past the window.

That's the peregrines feeding, Brough responded.

Brough expects the babies to establish nests of their own by January.

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