Photo: Paul Buxton (flickr)
For the second year in a row, Indiana wildlife officials have identified a record number of peregrine falcon chicks, indicating strong growth in the state’s population of the once-endangered bird.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources biologists banded 44 peregrine falcon chicks from 15 nesting sites across the state this year. This tops the previous high mark of 38 set in 2012.
Young falcons are banded with leg identification tags to help monitor their movements and survival. Biologists began banding this year’s group in May.
John Castrale, nongame bird biologist with the Indiana DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife, says the last two record springs come after years of slow growth for the peregrine falcon population.
“Peregrines are a pretty spectacular bird,” Castrale says. “As the population in the Midwest has grown, Indiana’s population has grown also.”
Having historically nested on cliffs, peregrine falcons prefer to reside in tall structures, such as the tall buildings of cities like Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. About half of the birds banded this spring nested along Lake Michigan, with the rest at power plants in the southern part of the state.
Despite ongoing construction efforts, the bridge carrying U.S. 421 across the Ohio River in Jefferson County, Ind., has been home to a nesting site for the past ten years. A nesting box sits on top of a pier cap on the Indiana side of the bridge, and is clearly visible from a spotting scope on the river bank in Kentucky.
Kate Heyden, avian biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, attributes the birds’ continued safety at the site to the cooperation between state agencies and construction companies.
“They’ve worked really well with us, it was great the way the timing worked out,” Heyden said. “The birds were able to nest successfully on the bridge the entire time.”
Heyden said she hopes moving the falcons’ nest is a similarly quick and painless process once construction ends in the next year.
“They’ll be demolishing the old bridge soon and as they’re taking it apart in pieces we’re really not too worried about the birds because they should be able to fly away as disturbances happen,” Heyden said. “We’re concerned about getting them a site on the new bridge that’s appropriate and safe for them to continue to nest in the future.”
A recommendation is pending to remove the peregrine falcon from the Indiana list of endangered species. The bird was removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999.