Researchers pluck peregrine falcon eggs fromdangerous perch on San Francisco's Bay Bridge

George the peregrine falcon soars over San Francisco Bay as scientists remove eggs laid by Gracie, George's mate. AP

SAN FRANCISCO — A peregrine falcon shrieked as scientists
snatched three eggs from his precarious perch beneath the Bay
Bridge to save the chicks from a deadly fall or car collision when
they hatch.

University of California, Santa Cruz, biologist Brian Latta on
Friday removed the eggs from a narrow beam about 200 feet above San
Francisco Bay.

"It's the most dangerous place in the world for them,'' said

Latta moved in after the female parent left the male parent
alone to defend the nest, a two-inch depression in a wind-blown
pile of dirt.

Peregrines are known for their ferocity when their nests are
invaded, and the male parent swooped and circled as the eggs were

"When the female comes back, he's going to have a lot of
explaining to do,'' Latta said.

The parent falcons, dubbed George and Gracie, had nested for
years on the 33rd floor ledge of a downtown skyscraper, where they
raised several clutches of chicks.

The pair relocated to the bridge this year at the same spot
where George hatched in 1999 and was rescued in a similar operation
before he was old enough to fly.

If the eggs were allowed to hatch under the bridge, crosswinds
could send the fledglings plummeting into the bay or hurtle them
under the wheels of passing cars when they left the nest for their
first flights.

George and Gracie are celebrities among San Francisco bird
watchers, who have followed their progress in past years via a Web
camera near the previous nest at Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s
city headquarters.

The peregrine falcon, which can reach speeds of more than 200
mph in its hunting dive, has taken up residence in many U.S.
cities. Tall buildings mimic the steep cliffs that are the birds'
natural habitat, and pigeons provide a plentiful source of food.

By removing the eggs from the nest, scientists hope George and
Gracie will return to their old nesting site and lay new eggs
within a few weeks.

A digital monitor detected a heartbeat in two of the three eggs,
which were packed in foam in separate plastic tubes after the

Biologists at the university's Predatory Bird Research Group
planned to incubate the eggs and turn the hatchlings over to
adoptive peregrine parents until they are ready to return to the

The peregrine falcon was removed from the federal government's
endangered species list several years ago but remains fully
protected under California law.