Wildlife rescuers save a baby peregrine falcon living in the roof at Accor Stadium

Story and pictures by AYUSH KUMAR

A FAMILY of Peregrine Falcons have made their home in the roof of Accor Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park for the past four years. When tragedy struck in the countdown to Christmas, wildlife rescuers were called in to save an ailing nestling and locals are now calling it a small Christmas miracle. 

Often flying majestically above Accor Stadium, the resident birds of prey have become a feature at Sydney’s Olympic venue.

In early October, eggs appeared in the nest of the Peregrine adult pair who have mated for life and produced offspring each year since making a home for themselves in the Stadium roof. Three baby chicks were spotted in the nest on November 7.

The alarm was raised when one of the nestlings 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.

“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 death,” 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 or trichomonas infection.

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

And so far so good, with Stadium staff reporting the baby Peregrine – dubbed Little 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.”  

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 Accor Stadium, the State’s largest venue that sits on the Greater Parramatta and Olympic Park peninsula.

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

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. 

Raptor Recovery Australia is a registered Australian charity that is part of the Wildlife Recovery Australia group. Its primary purpose is to rescue and rehabilitate sick, injured or orphaned Australian birds of prey with the goal of releasing the birds back to the wild with the highest possible chance of survival. 

You can make a tax-deductible donation on https://chuffed.org/project/saveraptors to help the group their great work in 2023 and beyond.

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