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Jill but no Sota: After 9 years, St. Paul falcon cam star has a new mate

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You've heard what it takes to be successful in one of the those big downtown office buildings. You've gotta think fast, be nimble, adapt to change, innovate.

Well that's true out on the ledge where the falcons nest, too.

A pair of peregrines named Jill and Sota starred on the Minnesota DNR's falcon cam nine years in a row, faithfully returning to the Bremer Bank building in downtown St. Paul every spring.

But there's a change in the cast of characters this year. Jill is there but there's no Sota in sight, the DNR says.

Even at the ripe old falcon age of 17, Sota had been able to provide for his family despite missing two toes on each foot (probably as a result of frostbite, the DNR says).

But Jill can roll with change. She's got a new mate and is incubating this year's eggs, which are due to hatch sometime around Memorial Day.

Power plant nests

Xcel Energy has cameras trained on falcon nests at its Allen King Plant in Oak Park Heights – where eggs hatched a few days ago – and at the Sherco plant in Becker, where there are reports of as many as six eggs being incubated.

There's background on Xcel Energy's falcon cams here.

Great River Energy has a falcon cam at a power plant in Elk River. Its customary pair, Mary Ellen and Brooklyn, were back this spring, the company says. But the eggs that appeared in late March never did hatch. They may have been hit by a spring freeze or could have been infertile, Great River Energy says.

North of the border, too

Meanwhile, a Minnesota native is a featured attraction on a Canadian falcon cam.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation says the peregrines nesting on the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg are Princess, who hatched in Minneapolis in 2002, and Smiley, who hatched in Grand Forks in 2009.

They're part of Manitoba's Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project, which is tracking several pairs of birds.

In 2014 Princess and Smiley successfully raised two female chicks but last spring they lost their four eggs in a storm, the CBC says. This year's hatching is said to be imminent and you can keep tabs on it here.

Peregrine falcons

Peregrine comes from the Latin word for wanderer, which is appropriate since they have one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. Some winter in South America and nest in the Tundra which means traveling 15,000 miles a year, the Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project says.

According to the DNR, peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world, having been clocked at 224 mph. Urban falcons have a diet heavy on pigeons, though ducks and pheasants are also frequent prey.

In a video showing the banding of St. Paul falcons, the DNR says falcons had disappeared from Minnesota by the 1960s but birds raised in captivity were released in the Mississippi valley and along Lake Superior's north shore, where there are now healthy populations.

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