Beloved Manayunk peregrine falcon dies; questions raised over cause of death

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Roxborough resident Judy Stepenaskie's views have been a bit less cheerful in recent days.

"Every time I go by the church I get sad," she explained.

The avid birdwatcher spent many years with her eyes to the sky, specifically to the steeple of the St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Manayunk for a glimpse of a very specific bird.

"I've seen him with a female. I've seen him feeding the young ones, the fledglings, the young birds," she recalled.

His name is Manny, a 10-year-old peregrine falcon.

"He was the first one. He was the male that started this nest," Stepenaskie said.

For nearly a decade she followed and photographed the bird of prey she nicknamed after his adopted hometown.

"I really love the one of him on the side of the church steeple in the cloverleaf in the evening," she said pointing at one of many photographs she has of Manny.

Last week, Judy got word that Manny suffered a severe injury and had died.

He was taken to a nearby wildlife center after being found in a yard.

"The leg had been severed above the foot," she said.

Her belief is that drone may have come too close.

"I've seen drones flying in the park here next to the church, I've seen drones being flown above the church right about the steeple where the nest site is," she said.

Right now it really is just a guessing game as to what happened to Manny. A necropsy could take up to a month and even then there are no guarantees.

"Sometimes, you just can't tell the cause of death," said Drexel University Ornithologist Jason Weckstein.

Weckstein says it's possible, albeit difficult that a bird of prey, like Manny, to survive without a leg.

"Birds do actually live without both their legs sometimes, although for something like a peregrine falcon, which hunts with its feet, it would be not an easy thing," he said.

Whatever the cause, Judy says she will also remember Manny. Hopeful it was an accident that won't soon be repeated.
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