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Like amorous country cousins, city peregrine falcons also thriving

Valentine’s Day sight-seers have been checking out a pair of Peregrine falcons, indulging in mating displays, high in the air above Tallulah Gorge.

But sharp-eyed Atlantans might catch a similar lovey-dovey Peregrine couple closer to home.

A pair of the fleet falcons has been spotted this year sporting in the air above the Four Seasons hotel in Midtown, though bird-watchers have yet to discover a nest.

A juvenile falcon tests her wings in this photo from 2010. Photo:  Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

It’s not the first time the predators have visited Atlanta’s high rises. A peregrine couple made their home near the top of the Marriott Marquis in the 1990s, raising their young, swallowing pigeons and occasionally buzzing window washers.

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They moved to the SunTrust building later on, and as recently as last year successfully fledged a juvenile peregrine, called an “eyas,” according to Bob Sargent, wildlife biologist and program manager for the non-game conservation section of the Wildlife Resources Division of the state Department of Natural Resources.

“Given the number of observations of adults, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were two nesting sites,” said Sargent.

But though adult peregrines have been sighted at the Four Seasons hotel and farther north, around Lenox Mall, Sargent’s group of bird-watching volunteers have yet to discover where the birds are making their city home.

The nest on the cliffs of Tallulah Gorge is the first one discovered in the wild since World War II.

Driven to extinction in the east, the peregrine is a conservation success story. The banning of DDT and federal protection has allowed the animal to thrive, and to be taken off the endangered species list. “Hacking” stations, reintroducing the peregrine to city skies, helped it multiply.

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