News Media Resources Publications Inside Penn Medicine Contact Us for Experts  
  System News | HUPdate | PresbyBulletin | What's New at PAH | Browse Archives  

‘Patient’ Care Reaches New Heights

Mama-FalconThe high ledge where the White and Ravdin buildings meet seems to be a prime spot for nests.  Coincidentally – or maybe not – the window looking out onto the ledge is located in the Perinatal Evaluation Center, which is HUP’s triage center for Labor & Delivery.

For many years, red-tailed hawks used this isolated location to bring their young into the world.  This year, however, new tenants showed up: peregrine falcons.

The new residents brought excitement to those in the know, including F. Arthur McMorris, PhD, Peregrine Falcon coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  He said that these birds are slowly making their way back from near extinction, after being almost wiped out in the 1940s and 1950s by massive DDT spraying.  High concentrations of this pesticide in falcons led to thin eggshells which could not support the weight of the incubating bird.

Baby-Falcon-CraneThe new baby in the HUP nest brings new hope to the population. “We’re trending in the right direction,” McMorris said.  To track the population growth, scientists place a small band around the leg of each falcon. McMorris said that nearly one-fifth of the birds they’ve banded have been observed and identified.  “An excellent return rate.”

A friend of McMorris’s originally spotted the nesting falcons in May and told McMorris, who called Dominick Lupica, associate director of Physical Plant.  After confirming the birds’ identity with McMorris (from the Penn Tower roof), Lupica got permission from Garry Scheib, HUP’s executive director, to help McMorris retrieve the tiny bird and worked with Ray McDonald from LF Driscoll to get a crane high enough to reach the ledge.

McMorris explained that, while banding is a great idea, removing baby falcons from their nests  to accomplish this is not easy while the young chick’s aggressive parents hover nearby.  With John Ritchey Examining-baby-falconfrom LF Driscoll operating the crane –- and PA Game Commission volunteer Ed Mutzer holding a broom to keep the parents from divebombing them -- McMorris carefully reached into the nest and removed the baby.  After a ground level medical exam -– and banding -– he quickly returned it to the nest with mom and dad.

The baby took its first flight June 16, McMorris said, and was soon getting “flying and hunting lessons from its parents.” The young bird will remain dependent on them for another month and might ‘fly the coop’ shortly thereafter or hang at home till the fall.  “By next year, it will be fully on its own.”

Photo above: Amy Carpenter and Ed Mutzer, Pennsylvania Game Commission volunteers, watch as Art McMorris examines the baby bird and places a band on its leg.


Do you want to keep up with all the latest news stories about Penn Medicine?

Subscribe to Penn Medicine In the News daily emails! Click here to sign up online if you're not yet receiving one of our email editions.

Or, if you've received an email edition recently, use the "update your preferences" link at the bottom of the email or contact us to subscribe.

Do you volunteer your time or provide supplies to help those in need?

We're always looking for great story ideas!

Click here to send your stories, ideas, and photos to us online now, or email them to!

Make it count! Help us keep track of all of Penn Medicine's community outreach activities by filling out the Penn Medicine CAREs reporting form. No contribution is too small to report. Visit

Browse More Stories Inside Penn Medicine


About Penn Medicine   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

Penn Medicine , Philadelphia, PA 1-800-789-PENN © 2011, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania