Saturday, June 21, 2014

Peregrine Falcon Chicks

A female Peregrine Falcon returns from a successful hunt…exhausted! She caught a Killdeer. She may have carried this Killdeer a long way to get here because she seemed very, very tired.  She stashed her prize on an I-beam of the Port Washington Generating Station and rested.

Her name is 'Brinn'.  She comes to us from Minnesota.  She was hatched in 2012 on Gold Hoist cliff, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on the north shore of Lake Superior.

This is NOT Indy Froona, a female known to nest at this site for the past three years. Two-year-old Brinn may have battled five-year-old Indy Froona for ownership of this site and won…driving Indy off. Indy Froona was born in Indiana in 2009, but now her whereabouts is unknown.

Before dismembering the Killdeer into bite size pieces to feed her chicks, Brinn plucks the misfortunate bird clean…tossing feathers to the wind. 

'Ives' was Indy Froona’s mate the last several year and is still the resident male in Port Washington. Ives was born in 2004 in Sheboygan, at Edgewater Power Plant.  He is believed to be the father of Brinn's chicks, but that is still to be determine.

This nesting site is one of several in Wisconsin managed by WE Energies Peregrine Falcon Recovery Program.

Early in the courting ritual the male Peregrine Falcon offers several nesting sites to the female and she picks one. 

(See previous stories of Indy & Ives at links below)

The nest box sits at 120 feet on the very edge of the WE Energies, Port Washington Generating Station.  It mimics a cliff that Peregrine Falcons would naturally choose.  

It overlooks Lake Michigan.

(LOCATOR: The nest box is at the top of the building, bottom of the nearest chimney.)

A ledge in the box keeps the chicks from falling out, but also keeps them from seeing anything but sky.  They  essentially have been isolated for twenty-three days except for parental feedings and a webcam. 

So, if something unfamiliar, like a human presents, it's bound to be scary.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

Peregrine Manager Greg Septon is in charge of banding, sexing and blood sampling the new chicks. 

Twenty-three days is an important point in the peregrine chicks' lives.  Greg must retrieve them before they feather or they could mistakenly believe they can fly, which they cannot.  

If frightened into running away at the sight of him, they could fall to their deaths.

Blood samples are drawn.

Bands are secured to their legs.

                                                             A general check of their physical health is made.

They are returned to the nest. 

Steve Jagow assists with a 'falcon swatter’ (broom) to repel attacks from angry falcons.

Peregrine Falcons have been delisted from the Endangered Species list, but are still protected. They were nearly wiped out last mid-century due to the residual effects of DDT in the environment.

The first pair of captive peregrines was reintroduced in 1987. 

Since then ‘Juneau’ (female chick, left) and ‘Noel’ (male) have brought the Port Washington nest box numbers up to 49 & 50, generated by the efforts of WE Energies Peregrine Falcon Recovery Program.