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3 Peregrine Falcon Chicks Hatch Atop San Jose City Hall

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- Three falcon chicks hatched Tuesday morning in a nest box atop San Jose City Hall, bringing the total number of wild peregrine falcons chicks to emerge from the 18-story tower since 2007 to 28, a city spokeswoman said.

The female falcon named Clara laid four eggs in March in the box on the south end of the city hall tower where the predatory bird and her mate, Fernando El Cohete, have nested since 2012, Mayor Chuck Reed spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said.

The fourth egg may yield yet another falcon chick, known as an eya, McGurk said.

Peregrine falcons, considered an endangered species in California in the 1970s, have adapted well to urban settings and were first spotted flying near San Jose City Hall in 2006, a year after the building was completed.

To the falcons, the city hall tower looked "like the side of a cliff" and an attractive spot to nest, McGurk said.

They started nesting on the south tower after Glenn Stewart, the director of the Predatory Bird Research Group at the University of California at Santa Cruz, installed the nest box there for them in 2007.

Before the new chicks are old enough to fly, Stewart will place a band on a leg of each one with a number so they can be identified after they learn to fly and leave the nest, McGurk said.

As he has done for years, Stewart, once the birds are older but still too young to fly, will repel down the side of the tower to enter the nest and place the bands on them, McGurk said.

"They kind of go out and bird watchers in the Bay Area can keep track of them from their bands," McGurk said.

Including today's young, 28 chicks have hatched since the first three in 2007, most have survived past the fledgling stage and some have been spotted living elsewhere in the region such as the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in the South Bay, McGurk said.

Each time new chicks hatch in the nest, the city holds a contest for San Jose public school children, aged 5 to 18, to nominate names for them in essays and art projects such as songs and videos, McGurk said.

The best names for the chicks are then chosen by the San Jose Peregrine Falcon Alliance, a group of volunteers that look after the birds at city hall.

The city will announce on Friday the details of this season's naming contest for the new chicks, McGurk said.

While schoolchildren choose the names for chicks, the falcon alliance chooses the names for adult peregrines who arrive at the nest, according to McGurk.

Clara, named both for Santa Clara Street where city hall sits and for Santa Clara County, was the first female in the nest and in 2007 bore three chicks that learned to fly and left to fend for themselves.

The first male falcon mate for Clara was named Jose Fernando, and others have included Carlos and Esteban Colbert, the mate that was forced from the nest in 2012 by Fernando El Cohete, McGurk said.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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