Peregrine falcons, chicks in danger atop vacant building

Falcon WhittierThe 15-story Whittier hotel has had many famous guests – The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, actress Mae West and playboy Horace Dodge Jr.

Now wildlife officials are worried about the abandoned building’s final guests. A pair of peregrine falcons and their chicks are nesting atop the 15-story renaissance building along the Detroit River. But since the owner stopped protecting the historic building this year, vandals, scrappers and urban explorers have been disrupting a pair of peregrine falcons and their chicks.

“It’s a very difficult situation; we are very worried about them,” Chris Becher, a peregrine falcon coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, told me. “They shouldn’t live in that kind of environment.”

To the falcons’ credit, they have been aggressively defending their chicks, diving at people on the roof.

Peregrine falcons have been nesting atop the Whittier since five peregrines were released in metro Detroit in 1987 as part of an effort restore the then-endangered species to the Midwest and East Coast. Since then, more than 230 chicks have hatched in southeast Michigan, according to the DNR. The population of peregrine falcons was virtually wiped out in the 1950s due to DDT. In 1964, there were no known peregrine falcons living east of the Mississippi River, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last year, more than 30 falcon chicks were observed in southeast Michigan, including atop the AT&T Building and the Macomb County Building in Mt. Clemens. Tall buildings are like cliffs to falcons.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.