Aug 01 2008

Virginia peregrines move to the quiet side

Published by at 10:36 am under Nesting & Courtship,Peregrines

This week my mother sent me news from Virginia about a pair of peregrine falcons who changed nest sites this spring.  What’s even more remarkable is they raised a second family when they got there.

Pictured on the left is the Berkley Bridge in Norfolk, Virginia that carries Interstate 264 over the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River.  As you can see it’s a very busy, noisy, dangerous bridge for wildlife. 

On the right is the Jordan Bridge over the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake.  It’s an old two-lane drawbridge whose center section is raised for tall boat traffic.  (The road bed is raised in this picture.)

Both bridges have peregrine nest boxes on them but the box on the Jordan Bridge, two miles from the Berkley Bridge, had never been used in the 10 years since it was placed there. 

This spring, as in years past, a pair of peregrine falcons nested under the Berkley Bridge and raised two chicks.   Then in late May workers at the Jordan Bridge noticed peregrines harrassing them if they worked up high.  They called Shawn Padgett, a research biologist whose work with peregrines in Virginia has restored their population in the state.

Last week Padgett, with scientists and maintenance workers, paid a visit to the Jordan Bridge nest box and found a chick – and his parents were identified as the pair from the Berkley Bridge! 

It is highly unusual for peregrines to nest twice in one season.  They will lay a second clutch of eggs if the first set is lost, but their breeding cycle lasts so long that they don’t lay eggs again if chicks or fledglings are lost.  There’s just not enough time to raise another brood.   

This peregrine falcon pair is remarkable for two reasons:  moving two miles to a better site and nesting twice in one season.  

Just when we think we’ve got them figured out, the only thing that’s “usual” about peregrines is that they usually surprise us.

Click here for the story in The Virginian-Pilot.

p.s.  Oh no!  No sooner had I reported on this happy event when the baby falcon fell from the nest and died.  The follow up story is here.

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