Pressure In Allentown

The Game Commission in Pennsylvania wants city officials in Allentown to clear the way for a hockey arena, and in a hurry – because a couple of falcons want to get busy.

The city has been demolishing a Rite Aid and Family Dollar store to make way for the arena, but there have been snags. The Rite Aid was discovered to have asbestos, then it was found to be attached to an apartment building that is to remain standing, so demolition was stopped, according to the city’s Morning Call newspaper.

Meanwhile, the city has a couple of animal celebrities in a pair of peregrine falcons and it’s time for them to mate. They are not nesting near the demolition area, but they could leave their home under the Eighth Street bridge and migrate to the PPL Tower, where they “established a sort of falcon starter home in 2007,” according to the paper.

The Morning Call helped make the feathered couple famous in 2008 when it set up a “falcon cam” to monitor the progress of the hatch and provided updates on the four hatchlings. The falcons have been multiplying ever since, although tragedy struck in 2009 when one of the couple’s brood died when it was impaled on a lighting rod atop PPL Tower.

The nesting period runs from Feb. 14 to July 31, and experts say a noisy demolition site could inhibit breeding if the falcons return to their early home.

“Falcons will not lay eggs unless they feel in complete control of their nesting territory and feel completely safe,” Art McMorris, a falcon expert with the game commission, told the paper.

It’s a critical time because, according to bird expert Keith Bildstein, birds regrow their genitals.

“It is like they are going through puberty again and they are becoming sexually aware,” Bildstein told the Morning Call. “It is kind of like a happy hour.”

The peregrine falcons are considered to be endangered in Pennsylvania and the couple is one of 29 known breeding pairs in the state.