Peregrine falcon draws admirers from Frost Tower perch


Vincent O’Brien was eating lunch on the 16th floor of the downtown office building where he works when he spotted an unfamiliar visitor: A peregrine falcon had just landed on the Frost Tower three blocks north.

“It was like seeing a wolf or bear on top of a skyscraper,” said O’Brien, who has been bird-watching for a decade. “It was dramatic and inspiring — a glimpse of an animal that is the ultimate symbol of wilderness.”

O’Brien said that a female peregrine falcon and sometimes a male one — both marked by black and white barring, pointed yellow-brown tail feathers and slate blue beak — have been spotted regularly since September perched on one of the white prongs of the Frost Bank logo. He last saw the bird Friday.

Peregrine falcons aren’t common in Central Texas, according to local bird experts. But with climate changes, the birds, which normally migrate to the Texas coast in the winter, have been slowly moving inland. Populations of peregrines have rebounded over the last few decades after their numbers were decimated by the use of the pesticide DDT.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s not some in Austin every winter now. At the same time, if we were together and you said, ‘Let’s go find a peregrine falcon,’ we would have no expectations that we could,” said Mark Lockwood, interim director of state parks region 1 for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Natural oases like Lady Bird Lake and the Capitol grounds are huge attractions for birds. Neighboring skyscrapers act like cliffs to the peregrines, giving them great vantage points to spot such prey as the ubiquitous rock pigeons. Few are a match for the speedy peregrine, which can reach up to 200 mph when it attacks.

“I was able to catch them do a cooperative hunt on the streets of downtown,” O’Brien said. “One of the falcons flew around a building really low and flushed some rock pigeons into the air. The second falcon was at the left side of the building high up and intercepted the pigeon, which I thought was fascinating.”

Two peregrine falcons were also sighted at the University of Texas clock tower over the summer, but it’s unclear whether that’s the same pair seen at the Frost Tower.

The male didn’t stick around, and no nesting material has been found, so the two likely never bred, said Nate McGowan, who compiles rare bird sightings for the local Travis Audubon Society. It would be even more remarkable if a pair of peregrines decided to reproduce in Austin, he said.

Not so good for the pigeons, though.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

One dead, two injured in North Austin shooting, police say
One dead, two injured in North Austin shooting, police say

One man is dead, two others are injured following a shooting in North Austin early Sunday morning. Austin police responded to a shooting in the 1900 block of Rutland Drive around 5:30 a.m. One man, who police believe to be in his 20s, was taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with critical life-threatening injuries, where he later died. The two other...
Florida man gets 20 years in state prison for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes
Florida man gets 20 years in state prison for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes

A Florida man convicted of stealing $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store was sentenced to 20 years in state prison, the Pensacola News Journal reported. >> Read more trending news  Robert Spellman, 48, was convicted in August of burglary and grand theft for the Dec. 28 incident, the newspaper reported. The length of the...
Indiana bus driver arrested on suspicion of letting students drive vehicle
Indiana bus driver arrested on suspicion of letting students drive vehicle

An Indiana bus driver was arrested Friday, accused of allowing three teenagers to drive her bus, the Chicago Tribune reported. >> Read more trending news  Joandrea McAtee, 27, was arrested by the Porter County Sheriff’s Office and charged with felony neglect of a dependent after she allegedly let three students, ages 11, 13 and...
Florence aftermath: Good Samaritan who sheltered animals during storm arrested
Florence aftermath: Good Samaritan who sheltered animals during storm arrested

A North Carolina woman was arrested Friday after authorities said she ran an illegal operation while sheltering animals during Florence, the News-Argus of Goldsboro reported. >> Read more trending news  Tammie Hedges, the founder of Crazy’s Claws N Paws in Goldsboro, was charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of practicing veterinary...
Traffic report for Monday, Sept. 24, 2018

Interstate 35 (Hays County): Slow moving striping work crews in both directions between RM 150 and Robert S. Light Boulevard from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights Interstate 35 (Travis County): Alternating closures on the frontage roads in both directions between Slaughter Lane and Williamson Creek from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through...
More Stories