ROCHESTER — Students who recently completed third grade at St. John of Rochester School in Fairport can now look with pride to the skies of Monroe County.
That’s because the students recently chose the name for a peregrine falcon, "Pride," that was hatched in a nest-box that sits in a tower atop the Eastman Kodak Co.’s headquarters on State Street. On June 4, third-graders from St. John’s and fourth-graders from Christ the King School in Irondequoit were invited to Kodak to observe officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation examine and band five 3-week-old eyases, or hatchlings, including Pride.
Both groups of students joined a total of 40 children from area schools to watch the rather noisy banding, which is part of the state’s and Kodak’s ongoing efforts to help preserve the endangered falcons, according to Thomas J. Hoehn, director of content marketing at Kodak and a volunteer with the company’s falcon program. The company maintains a Web site on the program at www.kodak.com/go/birdcam.
Hoehn noted that Kodak has provided a 22-story-high nesting area for falcon pairs since 1995, and that more than 20 falcons have been hatched in the Kodak box. Less than 20 years ago, only three breeding pairs of peregrine falcons even existed in New York state, he said, noting that the endangered species is coming back since nearly becoming extinct throughout the United States in the 1970s due to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, which is now banned. The pesticide rendered the peregrines’ eggshells fragile, and many falcons never made it out of their eggs alive.
The falcon breeding pair, Mariah and Kaver, have taken well to their nesting area, Hoehn said, noting that an abundance of pigeons and sparrows in the surrounding city streets amounts to "breakfast, lunch and dinner" for the carnivorous falcons.
Fourth-graders at Christ the King School, with the help of the fifth-grade class, raised more than $333 to fund the purchase of a transmitter to be placed on another one of the eyases, Hafoc. The transmitter will allow the bird to be tracked for three years.
The Catholic schools’ children seemed delighted to have witnessed the banding, which took place in the Kodak building’s lobby.
"I was scared of the birds at first, but when I saw them all, I got used to it," said Lexany Rivera, a Christ the King fourth-grader. "I thought (the birds) were going to be noisier, but I got used to it."
Her classmate, Hayden Brayer, also enjoyed the bird-banding spectacle.
"It was pretty fun to see all these real peregrines," he said.
Students at Christ the King and St. John’s studied the peregrine falcons during the 2003-04 school year, and the third-graders at St. John’s even performed a play called "The Peregrines of Rochester," according to their teacher, Elizabeth Place. The third-graders’ willingness to perform the play helped Kodak decide to give them the privilege of naming a bird, Hoehn said.
"It was just about the cutest darned thing I’ve ever seen," he said of the play.
Robert Young, a St. John’s third-grader, played "Joe Businessman," a character in the play who learns about peregrine falcons, and Lia Odorisi, his classmate, played "Falcon-Lover No. 17." Both students said they enjoyed their trip to Kodak.
"It was really cool and fun to see the babies because I never thought I’d see them," Lia said.
"I thought it was really cool seeing an endangered species being banded in real life," Robert added.
Their teacher, Place, added that the students were marking their trip to the bird-banding with a unique meal: chicken wings and falcon-shaped Jell-O.