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All were available and, once I had lifted them, were stashed away in my small reproduction of a buried treasure box, the 36 kind children imagine are filled with jewels deep at sea and which I had, in fact, been given as a child. By the time I had asked Dr. Meng for the peregrine feather, I’d had the treasure box for twentyfive years, and it was nearly full. As a kid, I took the feathers out of the box periodically, though not with the symbolic or romantic intentions of garnering transcendence or lightness.

A few peregrine feathers blew out with the decaying body parts; and although I knew it was illegal, I considered scooping them up. But with another gust of wind the feathers floated off the roof, destined for the city streets below where they would be mistaken for pigeon feathers, if they were noticed at all; and I felt seized then by what could not be seen or touched: the peregrine’s call. Obviously the birds were commanding us to leave: warning, warning, warning. Their instruction was direct, simple: Scram!

Meng and others, and were released into the wild by the same biologists I had come across in the mountains of Vermont in the mid-1970s. A decade later, by May 1993, nine pairs of the New York City peregrines had had their most successful breeding season. Thirty-five young were born, though by mid-October eight young were confirmed dead and two were missing. In any year “certainly some young will be successful,” said Chris, “and others just won’t be. Some starve to death not only here at their breeding grounds but during the time they spend looking for their own new territories.

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