- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Working ever so carefully one morning, Westar Energy’s Brad Loveless and several of his colleagues took turns holding three screeching, squawking 22-day-old peregrine falcons as they put identification bands around the birds’ legs.

The banding process took place on the rooftop of the Westar Energy building.

Though gentleness and care were the constants as Loveless and company worked on banding the birds, the process was done as expeditiously as possible, so as to provide as little disruption in the day-to-day activities of the chicks and their parents - mother Nemaha and father Boreas - as possible.

As skies grew dark and rain began to pelt the dozen or so people gathered on the rooftop to witness the birds’ banding, the final band was placed around the left leg of the largest chick.

Then, Loveless and Marty Birrell, of the Prairie Park Nature Center in Lawrence, scaled a metal stairway and placed the chicks in their nest at the southwest corner of the rooftop.

Moments later, Loveless said the banding was a success.

“It was a great day,” said Loveless, executive director of environmental services for Westar Energy. “We had four eggs this year and three of them hatched. We have three apparently very healthy chicks.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1TzXs4M ) reports that one of the chicks is a female, one is a male and the gender of the third is still to be determined.

As the bands were placed around each of the birds’ legs, Loveless cradled a chick in his arms.

The birds squawked and screamed on occasion, but for the most part, they were well mannered.

“All three got banded fine,” Loveless said afterward. “They behaved well - better in fact than their parents, which you hear above. They’re flying around, a little nervous that we were messing with the babies. But they’re all back in their nest now, safe and secure.”

The baby birds on Tuesday looked like small white-and-gray balls of fur. But though the birds were just more than three weeks old, they already had been growing some of their adult tail feathers. And their talons were prominent on their claws.

Peregrine falcons, once on the verge of becoming extinct, have made a nice comeback in recent decades. Today, they are a protected species.

As birds of prey, falcons primarily eat other, smaller birds, but sometimes consume small animals, such as rodents.

Peregrine falcons for more than 100 years have found perches on tall buildings in major U.S. cities to their liking. As a result, Loveless said, they are highly competitive whenever a spot on a tall building ledge opens up.

Loveless said peregrine falcons began showing up at the Westar Energy building in downtown Topeka in 1994. With the exception of only a few years, adult male and female falcons have nested on top of the Westar building.

Loveless said the birds have been nesting there every year since 2001. Nemaha and Boreas have been nesting at Westar’s building for the past five years.

When they reach about 35 to 40 days of age, the young falcons often try to fly for the first time - a “perilous” situation at best, Loveless said.

Once they reach maturity, the birds then fly away for good.

Loveless said the falcons nesting on the Westar building have been banded since 2001.

The birds received two tags: a silver-colored one issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a more colorful and easily read one from the Minnesota Peregrine Project.

Bird-watchers and outdoor enthusiasts use high-powered binoculars or scopes to read the tags on the birds’ legs. The findings are then reported to wildlife agencies and are used to track the birds’ movement.

Marty Birrell, of the Prairie Park Nature Center in Lawrence, helped Loveless place bands on the falcons.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s always exciting to see a successful clutch like this. The chicks are so healthy.”

The baby chicks haven’t been named yet, but people are invited to send in their suggestions by visiting the Westar Energy Facebook page. Westar employees then will vote on the suggested names.

Those wanting to view a live video feed of the falcons in their nest can log on to www.westarenergy.com/falcons.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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