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Peregrine falcons return to Door County

  • ##Good news for Wisconsin’s peregrine falcons, a state endangered bird. On the brink of extinction in the 1970s, these raptors continue to grow in numbers and expand into new places. Last week, the two young female peregrine falcons shown here were banded in Door County, representing the product of the first known successful peregrine falcon nest in the Door Peninsula since the 1950s! Photo by Melody Walsh.
  • ##Peregrine falcons are known for their speed -- scientists estimate their diving speed exceeds 200 miles per hour -- and beauty. Between 1940 and 1960, they were found in Door County, along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, the lower Wisconsin River, and the St. Croix River. At least 24 peregrine eyries (nests) were active in Wisconsin until the mid-1950s. After World War II, however, the population began declining and the pesticide DDT was found to be the major reason. DDT interfered with egg shell production and hatching success. Peregrine falcons were listed as a federally endangered species in 1970 and added to the state endangered species list in 1975. Photo by Nick Anich.
  • ##As DDT levels in the environment declined following the 1972 national ban on the pesticide, Wisconsin released more than 100 captive-produced peregrine falcons in Milwaukee, Racine, Pleasant Prairie, Madison and La Crosse between 1987 and 1992. Peregrine falcon manager/researcher Greg Septon of Muskego led recovery efforts in eastern Wisconsin, raising funds for and coordinating releases as well as putting up nest boxes on suitable power plants, grain elevators and tall buildings along the western Lake Michigan shoreline. DNR’s endangered resources staff coordinated releases in Madison and La Crosse. More recently, the Raptor Resource Project, [exit DNR] has led monitoring and nest box efforts along the western part of the state. DNR staff have consulted on the projects and provided some funding for monitoring. Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • ##Natural reproduction started occurring in the early 1990s and Wisconsin now has more than 35 pairs of breeding adults, including the pair nesting on this cliff. Melody Walsh, a volunteer for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas (WBBA) [exit DNR], spied a single immature peregrine falcon in Door County in 2015 and the following year observed a pair of peregrine falcons at the same site but the female was too young to breed. On April 18, 2017, Walsh and partner Randy Holm spotted a pair of peregrine falcons nesting and the couple and other volunteers gathered June 7, 2017 to band the young falcons. Photo by Dale Bird
  • ##Peregrine eyries are scrapes or depressions dug in gravel on a cliff ledge. Raptor Biologist Eddie Feltes, formerly with the Peregrine Fund, rappelled down to the young birds…Photo by Dale Bird
  • ##…placed them in an animal crate, and then helped guide the crate to the top of the cliff. Photo by Dale Bird
  • ##Bander Greg Septon receives the young falcons in the crate while Dan Goltz manages the ropes. Photo by Melody Walsh
  • ##

    Greg Septon banding his career 1,018th peregrine falcon. The young falcon grabs on to his glove during the banding process. Photos by Randy Holm (left) and Melody Walsh (right)...

  • ##Newly hatched chicks, also known as eyasses, are covered with creamy-white down and their feet are noticeably large. The male peregrine does most of the hunting, bringing food to the female and nestlings. The young fledge when they are 35-42 days old and remain with their parents for several weeks afterward. The adults capture prey for the fledglings, who learn to snatch it from them in mid-air. The young peregrines then begin to capture birds and large insects on their own. Photo by Melody Walsh
  • ##Melody Walsh and Randy Holm hold the banded eyasses, the first known young from Door County since the 1950s. On average, two successfully fledge per nest. Infertile eggs and natural losses account for this success rate. If the birds survive their first year, their chances for survival are good. Some peregrines have been known to live 18-20 years but the average lifespan is probably shorter, 2 to 8 years. Photo by Dan Goltz
  • ##Melody Walsh and Randy Holm, who spotted the history-making nest, chose names for the young falcons from the Potawatomi Tribe language for sister and older sister. The birds’ parents also have Potawatomi names: Os is father and Ne'ni for mother. Photo by Melody Walsh
Last Revised: Tuesday June 13 2017