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Falcon Chicks

Press Release: For Immediate Release
May 15, 2012
Contact: Carol Connare, cconnare@library.umass.edu, 545-0995

 

 

THREE FALCON CHICKS SUCCESSFULLY HATCHED

Amherst, Massachusetts: The installation of a video camera atop UMass Amherst’s W.E.B. Du Bois Library is providing new information about the mating pair of peregrine falcons that have taken up residence each spring on the 274-foot perch for the last decade. Thousands of watchers have followed along in real time since mid-April as three of four eggs hatched successfully and the falcon parents began feeding the chicks. Fans of the FalconCam (http://www.library.umass.edu/falcons) are logging onto the site from their smart phones and iPads and keeping an eye from home and work on their computers.

“For the first time, we can share the experience of sitting on several eggs waiting to hatch and anticipate the excitement of watching the chicks as they grow and are pushed out of the nest,” says Director of Libraries Jay Schafer. “Library staff and many others worked together to make the camera a reality.”

Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife experts and curious viewers alike can see how the parents share childcare duties 50/50. Falcon watchers saw how the birds nest by creating a berm with gravel, which allows them to sit on the berm and not on the eggs while covering them for incubation. Watching the parents feed their young draws viewers. The chicks are growing rapidly and the parents are feeding in earnest. Prey is mostly starlings and grackles with some bluejays and other birds as well.

One viewer wrote: “I observed the changing of the guard last evening when one bird arrived at the nest box with food and the other departed. All three chicks were fed to satiation two of them more aggressive in their insistence on receiving tidbits from the parent bird. …I have not previously had the pleasure of watching this drama unfold…”

Four eggs were laid in mid-April and three hatched successfully in the first week of May. Experts speculate cold weather might be the cause of the unfertilized egg. It is unclear if the parents have removed it from the nest or if it is still inside. One egg was lost last year as well and collected for analysis. The infertile eggs are analyzed for pesticide content and other pollutants. Since the falcons are at the top of the small-bird food chain and thus accumulate pesticides, the data is important for human health studies as well as bird studies. The loss of the egg makes it easier on the parent falcons to care for and feed three chicks versus four.

“The falcons will be banded sometime in mid-May, and will begin fledging after that,” says Richard Nathhorst, capital project manager, Facilities Planning, at UMass Amherst. Each spring, staff from MassWildlife and UMass Facilities Planning Division band the chicks after they hatch. Since the first nest box was installed at the Library in 2003, 27 falcon chicks have hatched and fledged (flown) from this site.

The banning of DDT in 1972 and subsequent restoration efforts brought the peregrine back from the brink of extinction in Massachusetts and across the country. Banding of the young has proven to be an important scientific tool in measuring the success of restoration programs, learning about raptor survival rates, dispersal distances, habitat preferences and causes of death. The peregrine falcon was removed from the federal Endangered Species list in 1999, but is listed as Endangered under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.

“In 2011, there were a total of 25 nesting pairs of falcons in the Bay State,” said Dr. Tom French, Assistant Director of MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Peregrine Falcons are now nesting at sites across the state including locations in Boston, Cambridge, Saugus, Swampscott, Peabody, Woburn, West Roxbury, Winthrop, Fall River, New Bedford, Quincy, Lawrence, Lowell, Worcester, Deerfield, Springfield, Erving, and Holyoke.

A fact sheet on peregrine falcons can be found at: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/species_info/nhfacts/falco_peregrinus.pdf.

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Ch. 22 News

 

Last Edited: 24 October 2012