For the Birds Radio Program: Peregrine Falcon nest update, 2007
Back in the 1980s, Dr. Bud Tordoff of the University of Minnesota and a team of others formed a peregrine falcon reintroduction project in Minnesota. Peregrines had been completely obliterated in North America east of the Rocky Mountains, due to DDT, but DDT had now been banned for a decade. Falconers and researchers had perfected techniques for taking chicks from falconer’s birds and setting them in what were called hack boxes on cliffs, tall buildings, and mines, and providing food for the babies as they imprinted on their surroundings. After the babies started flying about, food continued to be supplied in the hack box until the babies honed their own hunting skills. Little by little, more and more of these birds survived and reached adulthood and started raising their own babies, until we’ve reached a point where reintroducing these magnificent birds is over, and they’re on their own.
For many years now, Duluth has had two pairs of Peregrine Falcons trying to nest on the Bong Bridge and the Blatnik Bridge. Depending on the weather, the metal structure gets exceedingly hot or cold, and wind speeds can be huge, which has made hatching eggs and keeping chicks alive difficult at best, but last year both those pairs succeeded in fledging healthy babies. Meanwhile, back in the early 90s, Dudley Edmondson started noticing peregrines flying about in downtown Duluth and thought it would be worthwhile to construct a nest box on one of the tall buildings. He contacted the Raptor Resource Project, which has been constructing nest boxes and keeping tabs on individual peregrines, and they put a box on the Greysolon Building in 1992. That box stood empty until 2003. And then a pair moved in.
And it was a fascinating pair. Peregrines nesting in Minnesota have all ultimately come from captive chicks released in the original project, all of whom were banded. And researchers have invested an extraordinary amount of time and effort into following these birds, and every year banding their nestlings. Yet neither of the adult birds that showed up at that nest box in Duluth wore bands, so no one knew where either had come from. Last year the Raptor Resource Project people managed to capture the adult female and put leg bands on her, but the male is still unbanded.
The Fond du Luth Casino lunchroom faces the nest box, and we’ve had a lot of help from Kelly Boedigheimer and other casino employees keeping tabs on the birds. And this year there’s something new—the Raptor Resource Project people installed a camera in the nest. Birds were being seen at the box since March, and last week Julie O’Connor, the delightful woman from Hawk Ridge who has been showing the birds to people as part of Duluth’s Peregrine Watch program, noticed that three of the four eggs had hatched.
I’m going to try to spend as much time downtown taking pictures of the birds as I can this season, to post at Lauraerickson.com. Julie o’Connor and Debbie Waters from Hawk Ridge will be keeping information current at HawkRidge.org. And the fabulous nature photographer Mike Furtman has some exquisite photos of the birds, including some incredible flight shots, at MichaelFurtman.com. Duluth’s peregrines are wonderful birds, and this successful project is well worth keeping tabs on.