Orton back in the wild ... of downtown Rochester

Found injured in July, one of the nesting peregrine falcons at Mayo Clinic was returned to Rochester.

Tom Behrens, head of Mayo Clinic's facilities unit, releases Orton, a nesting Peregrine Falcon that lives atop a Mayo Clinic building Friday.
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As head of facilities at Mayo Clinic, Tom Behrens’ job duties can vary widely.

On Friday, Behrens released a recuperated peregrine falcon back into its habitat in downtown Rochester.

That falcon, Orton, is the male of a nesting pair of falcons that live atop a Mayo Clinic building downtown.

“It’s always exciting to see someone else get that opportunity,” said Jackie Fallon, of the Midwest Peregrine Society.

Fallon brought Orton back from the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, where he had been recuperating from a broken breastbone since July.


Fallon gave Behrens the opportunity to mark his birthday by releasing the raptor from atop the Plummer Building downtown. It’s an honor she has had before, having worked with the birds of prey since 1988 — but not often.

“I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to release an injured adult raptor back into the wild,” she said.

Serious injuries can often end a raptor’s ability to live in the wild, she said. In this case, Orton recovered, regained his strength, and was returned to downtown Rochester.

Several factors and good luck gave Orton’s recovery and return story a happy ending.

The fledglings Orton and his mate, Hattie, had this spring were old enough that they could help provide for themselves and didn’t need both parents to hunt to provide them with food.

Also, another male didn’t try to take Orton’s place during his monthlong absence.

“If it had to happen, it certainly could have happened at a far worse time,” Fallon said.

Orton appears to have collided with a building in July.


One of the pair’s fledglings, Orville, initially postured in front of Orton, likely mistaking Orton for an interloping male. Orville later appeared to recognize his father.

Last month, someone spotted Orton under a car unable to fly and contacted wildlife rehabilitator Foxfeather Zenkova. Zenkova used a net to take Orton into captivity and arranged transportation for the raptor to the Raptor Center at U of M.

Mayo Clinic has kept peregrine falcons since 1987, when the birds were being reintroduced into Minnesota. There are now more than 70 nesting pairs of falcons across the state.

People who want to check in on Orton can watch the Midwest Peregrine Society webcam at Mayo Clinic at .

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or
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