Birders mourn the loss of Mae, the 'webcam falcon'
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
By Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Birders around the world are mourning the death of Mae, the first known peregrine falcon to nest at a power plant, who became an Internet star through a Web cam that allowed thousands to watch her during nesting season.
Mae was killed this spring in a territorial battle with another falcon at an Xcel Energy Co. smokestack in Oak Park Heights, about 20 miles east of St. Paul.
Sympathy cards have arrived from as far away as Germany since her death, said Bob Anderson, director of the Raptor Resource Project and overseer of Xcel's "bird-cam" and nest-box programs.
Since claiming the nest as a young bird 15 years ago, Mae raised 37 falcons in the small wood box overlooking the St. Croix River. Xcel Energy installed the "bird cam" in 1997, and during Mae's first nesting season the Web site generated more than 800,000 hits.
Mae was killed by a falcon dubbed Belinda, who had taken over the nest box when Mae migrated south for the winter. The battle over the nest box was not unusual, Anderson said. The "falcon cam" will continue to track Belinda and her five babies, which should hatch in mid-May. But Mae will be difficult to replace, Xcel spokesman Paul Adelmann said. "She was the matriarch," Adelmann said.
"Mae absolutely loved living at that plant. When you see the same bird year after year for a decade, you get attached."
In 1989, the power plant became the first in the world to put up a nest box for peregrine falcons, which had been devastated by the pesticide DDT and were on the endangered species list. Power plants work as nesting sites because they are near rivers and offer protection from predators. Anderson said power plants around the world now install nest boxes.
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