Orton, the male of Mayo Clinic’s nesting peregrine falcons, will be back in the air later this summer after he was found injured in downtown Rochester on Wednesday.
Someone spotted the raptor under a car and contacted wildlife rehabilitator Foxfeather Zenkova. Orton appeared to struggle trying to fly.
This time of year, most calls about injured raptors involve juveniles who either have trouble flying or were injured after fledging the nest, said Lori Arent, assistant director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota.
“That was my first hope,” she said, “that it wasn’t the father of the group.”
Orton and his mate, Hattie, live atop a Mayo Clinic building in a nest box. The pair had four chicks this year — three females and a male. The four were banded June 3. The mother will have to provide for all four chicks on her own while Orton recovers from his injuries.
Orton was diagnosed with a broken keel — the breast bone. His flight muscles are attached to the bone, which is why he was having difficulty flying.
“He obviously collided with something,” Arent said. “I’m just glad somebody found him.”
The bone should heal in about a month, and after that, rehabilitators will help him rebuild his flight muscles, she added.
“We have every reason to believe he’s going to make a full recovery,” Arent said.
The chicks should be old enough to forage for some of their own food, but Hattie will still have to pull double duty for the next few weeks. Had Orton been injured two or more weeks ago, when the chicks were entirely dependent on their parents, this incident could have threatened their chances of survival.
“This would have been really traumatic a couple weeks ago,” she said.
Cities can be difficult for raptors to navigate. This time of year, as the birds of prey fledge from their nests, the Raptor Center gets busy with those that are injured trying to leave the nest and navigate around man-made objects and buildings.
Right now, the center is housing 80 birds at various stages of rehabilitation.
Arent advises people who find a raptor they believe is injured to contact a wildlife rehabilitator before moving it. The bird could be a fledgling that is not hurt, but instead is unable to competently fly.
“It’s really important to make sure it really needs help before intervening,” she said.
Mayo Clinic has kept peregrine falcons since 1987 as the birds were reintroduced into Minnesota. There are now more than 70 nesting pairs of falcons across the state.