Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peregrine Falcon Dorothy Defies Old Age, Lays an Egg

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peregrine Falcon Dorothy Defies Old Age, Lays an Egg

Article excerpt

For those lamenting the unhatched eagle eggs in Hays, an egg from Oakland's resident peregrine falcon Dorothy, who calls the top of the Cathedral of Learning home, brings some hope.

Dorothy, who counts 42 peregrine falcons as her offspring, laid an egg at daybreak Thursday. However, Dorothy's old age - she is 16 years old and the average lifespan for the falcons is only 13 - makes the egg's viability questionable. That's according to Pennsylvania Game Commission peregrine falcon coordinator Art McMorris and avid birdwatcher Kate St. John, who blogs about the falcons at http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/ and calls herself Pittsburgh's peregrine lady.

"Age in raptors does affect their fertility, " Mr. McMorris said. "Their ability to lay eggs at all goes down, and it's more likely that a given egg will be infertile."

And Ms. St. John said that just as pregnancy becomes less likely and riskier as women age, laying eggs becomes quite dangerous for a mother falcon as she grows old.

"If I were her gynecologist, I would tell her to not get pregnant again," she said.

From her first round of eggs in 2001, Dorothy tended to lay four or five eggs, of which three or four would survive. This occurred every spring, and Dorothy successfully fledged 41 falcons that now live, many with their own nests, in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Son Louie has nested at the Gulf Tower since 2002 and has a sizable offspring of his own.

In 2013, however, Dorothy's age started to show.

That spring, Dorothy laid five eggs, but only two hatched. Of the two that hatched, one had severe health problems, could not eat and died within a week. The other chick, named Silver Boy, successfully left the nest and became baby No. 42 but was hit by a car in Oakland and died within a few months of his birth. …

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