Dec 16

A SMALL MIRACLE AT CHRISTMAS AS ACCOR STADIUM’S BABY PEREGRINE FALCON LIVES TO FLIGHT ANOTHER DAY

Friday 16 December 2022 12:00am

Accor Stadium has been home to a family of Peregrine Falcons for the past four years. When tragedy struck in the lead-up to Christmas, wildlife rescuers were called in. 

Story and pictures by AYUSH KUMAR and SIMON DAVIES

EVEN nature’s hardiest creatures can do with a helping hand from time to time.

And so it was this week with our family of Peregrine Falcons, the birds of prey who have made their home in the upper reaches of the Accor Stadium roof for the past four years.

Accor Stadium has been home to a family of Perigrine Falcons for several years

In early October, eggs appeared in the nest of the Peregrine adult pair who have mated for life and produced offspring each year since moving into the Olympic venue. Three baby chicks were spotted in the nest on November 7.

The alarm was raised when one of their brood seemingly fell to its death from the nest, and a second died suddenly.

Accor Stadium’s Security team had been closely monitoring the Peregrines’ progress via the Stadium’s CCTV system and alerted General Manager Asset Management Simon Davies who called in the experts . . . an organisation aptly called Raptor Recovery Australia.

Fingers crossed as Accor Stadium's General Manager Asset Management Simon Davies (R) takes the team from Raptor Rescue to JET

“We found that the chick that had died in the nest had been infected by a parasite that causes lesions in their throat leading to quick deaths,” explained Amara Mohan, on-site rehabilitator for Raptor Recovery Australia.

“We decided to remove the surviving baby Peregrine from the nest and treat it for the parasite.

A protective Mum is always a challenge

“After the bird completed the treatment, it spent a week in our care before we returned it to the nest at Accor Stadium.”

JET in the first days of care with Raptor Rescue

And so far so good, with Stadium staff reporting the little one – dubbed JET by the locals and approaching 6 weeks in age – appears to be doing well, with Mum and Dad bringing it a regular supply of food, everything from medium-sized birds to small reptiles and insects.

The Peregrines have got used to the large crowds and loud events at Accor Stadium . . . not even the recent Guns N’ Roses concert appeared to trouble them.  

While the future is uncertain in the wild, Ms Mohan likes what she sees in young JET: “As soon as I approached her, she would scream and scream, which is what we want from a wild bird as we want them to stay as wild as possible so we can easily get them back to where they need to be with their families.” 

JET on the road to recovery at five weeks of age.

The Peregrine Falcon has the mantle as the fastest member of the animal kingdom – reaching amazing speeds in excess of 300km/h during their characteristic hunting stoops or high-speed dives for food.

The Peregrine mates for life and nests on cliff edges or, in recent times, on tall human-made structures . . . hence the appeal of the largest stadium on the East Coast of Australia, Accor Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park.

Ground staff have enjoyed having the Peregrines around the Stadium, as they are the best protection imaginable against pigeons that like to eat all the grass seeds needed to keep the turf growing all-year round.

Mum is always watching . . .

The Peregrine Falcon is fascinating, majestic and threatened. It became an endangered species in many countries including Australia because of the widespread use of certain pesticides, especially DDT. Since the ban on DDT from the early 1970s, populations have recovered, supported by large-scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.

Keep an eye out for our family of Peregrine Falcons next time you are at the Stadium or in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct.

The recovery, rehabilitation and release of little JET has brought Christmas joy to many of us on the Stadium team.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on any developments.

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