Beauty, the female peregrine falcon who made her nest atop the Times Square Building in downtown Rochester for most of her 15 years of life, has died.
The Genesee Valley Audubon Society and its Rfalconcam subsidiary announced Beauty’s death early Tuesday on their websites and social media accounts.
“Last night she lay down on the platform in front of the Powers nest, she died early in the morning,” reads a tweet from Rfalconcam’s account.
The cause of his death has not been determined.
“The hawk watchmaking community is absolutely devastated,” said June Summers, president of the Genesee Valley Audubon Society.
But nature is both beautiful and rugged.
Peregrine falcons appreciate their nesting spots and fiercely defend their territory, usually an area of around five square miles. Beauty’s death created an opening and at the end of Tuesday morning a new female falcon without a headband was making designs on a nest atop the Times Square Building, according to the Rfalconcam website.
Observers also spotted two tiercels – the invented name for male peregrine falcons – hanging around downtown, and had a couple of fights.
“Things happen fast in the hawk world,” Summers said.
Heck, birds can reach dive speeds of 240 mph.
Beauty was born in 2007 in Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, according to Rfalconcam.com. In 2009, she took a mate, Archer, and moved to Rochester: the couple first made a nest in the former Midtown Plaza tower, although Beauty’s eggs are believed not to have hatched.
That year, they also began a successful campaign to force Mariah, the hawk who had nested in a Kodak building box since 1998, out of her territory. In 2008, the Kodak box was moved to the Powers Building and a new box was built in the Times Square Building.
Observers learned that Archer was Mariah’s grandson.
In 2010, Beauty and Archer settled in the Times Square Building. In 2012, Archer’s legs were injured and he was forced to leave the territory. The beauty was wounded during a territorial battle – by a hawk who turned out to be his grandson – but recovered and took up with a new male, who became known as Dot.ca. In 2021, Beauty hatched 33 hawks. Mariah, by comparison, had 43 of her born during her years at Kodak.
Observers hadn’t spotted Dot.ca since January, and one of the new males lured Beauty into the Powers Building box. On Monday night, observers noticed that she was behaving strangely and eventually she was dead.
So why all the fuss about a bird? Peregrine falcons are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but are an endangered species in the United States. In the 1970s, they had been wiped out across the northeast by DDT, the same toxic pesticide that plunged populations of the bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, and other raptors.
But efforts were underway in the 1980s to reintroduce those species, including pilgrims, to the northeast. Partners in Flight, a bird conservation organization, has estimated the current global breeding population to be approximately 140,000.
“Our hawks have helped to expand the peregrine falcon population,” Summers said, adding that another mating pair could emerge by the end of the summer.
“I’m confident,” she added.
Beth Adams, a reporter for WXXI News, contributed to this story.
Jeremy Moule is the news editor of CITY. He can be reached at email@example.com.