A Case of Mistaken Identity?
The injured bird being cared for at the Wildlife Center appears to be on the mend. The shoulder injury seems to be healing well and the veterinarians are pleased with the alignment of the fractured coracoid. The falcon was given an eye exam at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech on October 21st. The bird’s right eye appeared to be healing, with reattachment of the retina. The bird will likely be re-examined in another 4-5 weeks to assess the healing of the eye and to check the falcon’s sight.
In the meantime, events have been unfolding in Richmond. On Thursday, October 21st, a DWR biologist in downtown Richmond observed a pair of adult falcons as they harassed vultures and fed on prey. A conversation with building management at the Riverfront Plaza, where the falcon pair has bred since 2006, revealed that maintenance workers on the roof of the West Tower were harassed by a pair of falcons on Saturday, October 16th, only four days after the injured bird was transported to The Wildlife Center. On Friday, October 22nd, two DWR biologists visited the roof of the Riverfront Plaza West Tower, confirming the banded male and an unbanded female.
Close comparison of photographs of the breeding female of the Richmond pair with photos of the injured bird provided by the Wildlife Center strongly suggests that the female currently in downtown Richmond is the original female of the pair. There are certain structural characteristics of the bill and head, along with bill and leg coloration, that differ markedly between these sets of photographs. In addition, there is great consistency in the pattern of barring on the belly between pictures of the breeding female and the bird that was observed in Richmond last Friday.
When the injured bird was first picked up in downtown Richmond on October 12th, superficial similarities to the breeding female of the falcon pair, as well as its unbanded status, led to the guarded conclusion that the two were one and the same. At this point in time, however, after closely examining the available photos, and comparing notes with staff at The Wildlife Center and The Center for Conservation Biology, we feel that this is a case of mistaken identity; and that the breeding female is soaring her usual haunts over downtown Richmond.