Peregrine Falcons Raising a Chick on New Nesting Platform

Jun 06, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has successfully wooed a pair of peregrine falcons from their habitual nesting spot under the Causeway Bridge to this new nesting platform.

The peregrine falcons in the new nest box next to the Causeway Bridge are busy raising a chick, according to Ben Wurst, project manager for the local chapter of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

The pair had been nesting under the last rise of the Dorland J. Henderson (Causeway) Bridge since 2015 and as the construction was due to focus on that area this spring and summer, in February the foundation built and installed a nest box in the adjoining salt marsh to entice the pair to move. At the same time the construction workers removed the old nesting material under the bridge, said Wurst.

“If you build it, they will come,” said Wurst, who built the igloo-type shelter on a platform to conform to what the falcons would like. “They like to nest on ledges, buildings and bridges; in fact, that’s often how we find new nesting pairs when construction projects begin.”

Peregrine falcons are making a decent comeback from being extirpated from North America in the 1940s because of the persistence of DDT and other pesticides in the environment. They were reintroduced in the 1970s and, according to the Audubon Society, there are now 1,650 breeding pairs in the U.S. and Canada.

Peregrine chicks are good eaters, doubling their weight in six days and are 10 times their size at birth within three weeks. They mature in 39 days, but still need help in learning to hunt. The male parent will hunt for prey while the female incubates the eggs, but soon she will join him to forage for the hungry chick.

Peregrines are thought to mate for life and return to the same territory every year to raise their young. That’s how Wurst knew they would be back.

“We have been monitoring them since 2015,” said Wurst. “We knew if we provided them with suitable habitat, they would remain.”

Peregrines are raptors and are the fastest birds in the world. They’ve been clocked at 200 mph during their bombardier-type dives. Unlike ospreys that dine primarily on fish, peregrines eat other birds and bats and catch their prey on the wing; because of this they are sometimes called duck hawks.

Wurst has visited the nest a couple of times since the breeding pair took up residence. “I removed the three eggs that didn’t hatch so they can be studied for contaminants,” he said. He plans to return this week to band the chick, “that’s if it’s still there.”

— Pat Johnson

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