A new breed is flocking to town, attracted by New York's high-rise residences, its stately churches and bridges, its large number of fat, tasty pigeons.
The city boasts at least nine pairs of the endangered peregrine falcon, one of the nation's largest concentrations."They fly into town and think, `Wow, the perfect nesting spot,' " said Parks Commissioner Betsy Gotbaum.
During the past three years, the falcons have nested atop office towers, churches, bridges and New York Hospital, where Dr. John Aronian admires a pair named Red-Red and Buster from his office window on the 19th floor.
"They make life a lot more pleasant around here," the surgeon says. "Watching them takes your mind off your patients' problems, or whatever's bothering you." In good weather the patients themselves watch from a lounge on the 12th floor.
Why does New York, which seems to have a tenuous hold on many of its human residents, look so good to a 3-pound predatory bird?
Food, for one thing. In addition to its peerless supply of pigeons, starlings and sparrows, the city sits right in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, an avian migratory route, which guarantees the falcons a varied diet.
Experts also say that the city's tall structures, many situated near parks or rivers, resemble the falcons' natural cliffside habitat.