Peregrine falcon nest boxes relocated from Portage Lake Lift Bridge

Copper Country
Portage Lake Lift Bridge.jpg

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – Nesting boxes for peregrine falcons located on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge have been removed due to needed bridge repairs.

Peregrine falcons have been nesting on the bridge since 2013. Nest boxes were installed by the MDNR and MDOT in 2012. Repairs to the lift bridge’s service elevators were scheduled earlier this year, but were delayed due to unavailability of parts. Concerns arose over potential disturbance of birds while they’re nesting.

“In light of upcoming scheduled maintenance work, including a painting project in 2027, we’ve determined it’s best not to put the nest boxes back on the bridge in the near future,” said Rob Tervo, manager of MDOT’s Ishpeming Transportation Service Center. “Working with the MDNR, we’ll re-evaluate the long-term viability of the bridge as an appropriate nesting site going forward.”

A pair of falcons has been sighted at the bridge despite removal of the boxes, they may be attemping to establish a nest elsewhere on the structure. MDOT will attempt to minimize disturbance to the nesting area if this happens.

Falcons hatched more than 20 chicks on the bridge over the years. Copper Country Audubon has maintained a webcam on the nest boxes.

The nest boxes have been relocated to other suitable locations, one on top of Michigan Technological University’s Electrical Energy Resources building and the other atop the Quincy Mine shaft house. Additional box locations are in consideration.

“The birds could still use the bridge as a nesting site even with the nest boxes removed,” said Brad Johnson, an MDNR wildlife technician at the Baraga Customer Service Center.

On March 11, Johnson, Michigan Tech personnel and members of the Audubon chapter took a field trip to select potential sites for relocating the nest boxes.

“We did this with the help of the Baraga High School shop class, who built us a new nest box, and members of the Audubon group who designed a nest box base that was favorable to Michigan Tech,” Johnson said.

Michigan Natural Features Inventory shows that peregrine falcons historically nested on cliff faces in Michigan. The falcons have been introduced in several cities where they “are faring quite well where they nest on many types of man-made structures and feed on the abundance of small city birds, like rock pigeons.”

The inventory has recorded the species in at least eight counties in the Upper Peninsula and 18 counties in the Lower Peninsula.

Information on the webcams can be found on Copper Country Audubon’s website.

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