Sunday, June 23, 2013

Great Spirit Bluff Peregrine Falcon Update

By now most of you are aware that all four young falcons jumped from the nest box at Great Spirit Bluff on June 17th. They were approximately 10 days away from fledging. Searchers were only able to find one of four falcons. Bob evaluated Jonathon, a male, and decided to augment/foster Jonathon into another nest box rather than risk having him jump out again. He chose Red Wing Grain as the new site, since the two young falcons there are about the same age as Jonathon. We fostered Jonathon on the morning of June 19th and he seems to have adapted quite well to his new surroundings. 

We chose not to continue the search after the first night. Like many young animals, the falcons either hide or try to scurry under cover when they hear threats approaching. We didn't want to drive them so deep in into the undergrowth that Michelle and Travis couldn't reach them. Since then, we have heard the young falcons calling from the area below the nest box, and we have witnessed Michelle and Travis carrying what appears to be prey down below. We hope to see the young falcons at the nest box or on the ledge again, but only time will tell. 

We have received numerous questions regarding the nest box at Great Spirit Bluff. Is it a safe box? It is. In the Midwest alone, over 1,000 falcons have been produced at nest boxes that use this design, which provides shelter from the weather and perches for sitting. Netting under the boxes is out of the question, since the falcons would snag their talons, and holes or venting in the side of the boxes to let in wind would also let in rain and snow.

Absent external stimuli, Bob has never seen young falcons jump from a nest box or cliff as they did at Great Spirit Bluff. He believes that insects caused the young falcons to stampede from the box. Just a few weeks ago, 17 of 20 adult whooping cranes in central Wisconsin deserted their eggs due to black flies, as reported in the Wausau Daily Herald.

Please refer to this blog post for more information about insects, intervention, and fosterage:

Although we knew the gnats and black flies were bad, we were unable to intervene earlier, since that would most likely have caused the young falcons to jump before they had developed their flight feathers. In short, the risk of injury or death was higher if we went to the box than if we did not. This was an unusual and unfortunate situation. We haven't seen it before and we hope never to see it again.

To view the Red Wing Falcons, click on this link, and then choose Red Wing Grain Falcons from the left side and click on that link: This cam may not always be available, since it has limited bandwidth. 

A big thank you to the Howe family for responding so quickly, climber Dan for last minute assistance, and the staff of Red Wing Grain for letting us foster a falcon into their box on very short notice. Bob made a difficult decision in a stressful situation, but he made it in the best interests of Jonathan, who is thriving in his new home.