Apr 25, 2011

(Bird)Life Imitating Art

by Nikki Logan

This month a nice little piece of synchronicity has happened that has me smiling. In 2010 I wrote a book called Rapunzel in New York for RIVA (out in July, UK) with a heroine who lives in a tall Manhattan apartment building where she watches and enjoys the exploits of a pair of peregrine falcons who mate and raise chicks on the ledge of her high-rise bathroom.

This past fortnight in Toronto, home of the Harlequin head offices, staff in Harlequin’s North York offices have been captivated by the courting and nesting behaviours of a pair of falcons in the building across from their windows. Head of Harlequin, Donna Hayes (a keen birdo) first spotted the pair and then reported them to a group with an interest in urban raptors. After painstaking stakeouts the pair were individually identified as three-year-old Quest, a female who’d come across from the US and two-year-old Kendal--as Twitter delightfully put it ‘a hot, younger Canuk’.

Typical romance audience J

'Kendal' bringing a love tribute to his US girl
www.thestar.com  Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star
Harlequin staff now spend their coffee breaks squeezed around the best viewing windows and the couple of telescopes quickly set up by the company for the purposes of peregrine monitoring. They were all-a-twitter on Twitter when Quest laid her first eggs last week.

All this interest in peregrines is very timely given my Rapunzel in New York comes out in July. While Quest and Kendel have brought the people of Harlequin together with their nestbuilding activity in North York, my fictional falcons Fred and Wilma bring my hero and heroine together with their nestbuildilng activity in New York. IT guru Nathan Archer is ordered by the NY courts to help reclusive Viktoria Morfit set up a webcam to take her nesting falcons to the world after he busted down her door in a misdirected Prince Charming moment. Their love story unfolds parallel to Fred and Wilma's as they raise then finally release their young family.

I adored researching 'Rapunzel', particularly the bird elements (warning: watching real hungry birds on nest-cams is way more addictive than any game equivalent) and so I was so excited when the news of the Quest/Kendal/Harlequin love-trianagle broke on Twitter.

Read more about it in the Toronto Star piece here .

Fast Falcon Facts
  • Birds-of-prey scraping out a living in cities are part of a group called ‘urban raptors’.
  • Falco peregrinus (Peregrine Falcon means ‘wanderer’). The only place on the planet you won’t find this species is Antarctica.
  • They do well in very big cities because they prey on smaller bird species and particularly pigeons which thrive in human-heavy areas.
  • Peregrines are monogamous and will return to the same place to breed season after season.
  • Their nests are called 'scrapes' because they barely go to any effort at all, simply making a groove in the dirt/substrate and laying their eggs straight on top.
  • Peregrines will lay between 3 and 5 eggs which incubate for 35 days before hatching. They fledge (get full flight feathers) after another 45 days. By three weeks of age, the voracious little chicks are ten times their birth size.
  • Hunting peregrines can reach 300+km an hour. Faster than a tornado!


  1. Falcons are my favourite predator birds. They're strikingly beautiful and death on two wings to watch.

    Nikki, how did and who came up with the title for your story? It's certainly not the average category romance name! I love it! That alone would make me pick the book up off the shelf!!!

  2. I love the birds of prey. I will never forget the day my sister and I were driving through the mountains and just above us two huge wedge tail eagles glided ahead. It was honestly a magical experience.

  3. Love peregrine falcons!

    In Brisbane we've had Frodo and Frieda who gained international stardom through 'frodocam' after nesting on the same city building ledge for a few successive years.

  4. Nikki, that's fascinating - I didn't know much about peregrine falcons. Love the Quest / Kendal story, and really looking forward to Rapunzel in New York - sounds like my kinda story.

    What's the average lifespan for a peregrine falcon? Just wondering about how long Quest and Kendal might have together now they're a monogamous pair. :)

  5. Nikki, what a FABULOUS post! I love falcons -- they're such beautiful creatures. I'm extremely envious of the Harlequin Toronto staff getting to watch Quest and Kendal!

    Hey, Rapunzel in NY sounds great. Can't wait to read it!

  6. Loved the peregine story. I saw it on twitter as well!

    Rapunzel in NY sounds interesting!

  7. I adored your post thank you for sharing !

  8. Hi Kylie - aren't they stunning, and so, so bright! Apparently they've just been delisted as under threat bc their numbers are stronger in key testing areas now. Yay!

    I originally called this book 'Knight in Shining Armani' (bwaaaahaha, I crack myself up) but when I sent in the story idea as a high concept I said to my editor 'Think of it as Rapunzel in New York'.

    And she clearly did! And it clearly stuck. Think they're trying to do new things with titles for the RIVA line. But am very pleased to hear you'd grab it based on that. I had such a good time fitting the story to the old Rapunzel tale.

  9. Mel - oh yeah, Wedgetails. I got to hold a fully grown one on my arm once, I lasted about 15 seconds before the weight killed me, but WHAT a 15 seconds!

    Anita - love the idea of Frodocam. What happened to them, did they move on? Succesive generations usually return to favoured nesting spots.

  10. Rach - ooh!! Pick me. I know! *rifles through research* Oldest wild peregrine (known) is 17 but average is closer to 10. But the offspring will sometimes take over the site if the parent birds aren't going to breed in it anymore and if they're cooperatively sharing territory.

    And think they optimum breed every two years (so the young have two years to grow up and move on) so Quest/Kendal will have about 8 yrs together in theory and that could be another 3 sets of babies.


  11. Nas - everything I learn I learned on Twitter. LOL.

    Desere - hey! *waving* Lovely to see you here again. Did your book arrive yet?

  12. Peregrine's nest on a building in downtown Calgary and on a building at the U of C. I didn't realize that they only breed every two years. I'm paying close attention this year after hearing about the Toronto ones to see if ours are back. So far nothing on the internet about them.

    The plot line for Rapunzel is unusual and very interesting.

  13. Kaelee - oh, you have local ones. How lovely. I guess they'll breed as soon as there's a vacancy in the nest, so if they have really precocious babies who leave home ealrier they might start earlier, but if they have reluctant fledgers they might be three years between seasons... Please let me know if yours return this season!

  14. (hmmmmm... you know by 'nest' I don't mean literally, cos they don't really have one. But I mean that if the young birds learn fast and strike out for their own territory early...)

  15. Gorgeous post, Nikki! I love birds.

    A little over a week ago I called the Wildlife Rescue Service to come and collect a kookaburra I saved (?) from our jungle of a backyard. He'd spiralled to earth with a thud. He shook himself off and then refused to do much of anything. I went out into the pouring rain and bundled him up in a towel. If all went well with him they were going to come back and release him in my yard again, but... I haven't heard (and tbh I don't want to ring in case the news is not good. Yes, yes, I'm a coward).

    Gotta say that I love the title "Rapunzel in New York." Can't wait to get a copy! Birds and a romance -- sounds like a winner! :-)