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‘Family Values’: Endangered Birds Find Comfy Spot Atop PG&E Building
For a utility that has spent millions of dollars and more than a decade to boost its environmental programs, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. now can tout its 33-story headquarters building in downtown San Francisco as another ecological resource of immense value since two nesting endangered peregrine falcons set up a permanent household atop the building and are nurturing their second group of eggs over the past 12 to 15 months. The scene has attracted widespread attention from local news media, academia and bird lovers in California.
With the University of California-Santa Cruz campus’s Predatory Bird Research Group (PBRG) joining the event, the PG&E utility held a news conference in San Francisco Monday to introduce a new webcam video camera link to the birds’ university-created rock and gravel nest on a ledge on the downtown office building. “The camera was installed during the first week of January, a time of the year when the peregrines are typically away from their nesting site, and positioned in a way that will not disturb the birds,” said a PG&E utility spokesperson.
Long a perch for the peregrines, that 35 years ago drew much attention when their numbers dwindled to single digits in the United States with only two identified in California at the time, PG&E’s utility headquarters finally attracted a permanent pair in late 2003, years after UC Santa Cruz researchers had placed a man-made nest on the building. Since that time, two peregrine chicks were born early last year, and the San Francisco financial district bird watchers saw them take their first flights off of the downtown office tower and mature to the point that they went off on their own.
Mom and Dad have remained — it seems the peregrines are very territorial, a PG&E utility spokesperson said — and now are on their second set of eggs. (Another fact about the peregrines is they are considered the fastest animals on the planet, reaching speeds of 200 mph in their well-known dives off of steep cliffs.)
PBRG scientist have enjoyed having the utility building connection because they emphasize it points out the “nature in downtown San Francisco,” and PG&E’s utility environmental affairs vice president, Robert Harris, called the birds “members of the PG&E family, a fascinating part of life in downtown San Francisco.
“The falcons are regularly seen swooping and diving in the skies above the financial district,” said Harris, adding that the utility’s partnership with the university PBRG ensures that the “amazing birds have a safe place to live and nest.”
PG&E said it will make a $30,000 donation to the PBRG this year, with the funds going toward the operating costs for the “peregrine cam” on the website (www.pge.com/peregrinenestcam/), along with helping the research group’s ongoing educational outreach program that travels to more than 50 schools in northern and central California, impacting 8,000 to 10,000 K through 12th-grade students annually.
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