SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. and Ontario (WJMN) – The pair of nesting peregrine falcons at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge have had a successful summer, with the raptors raising three chicks this year.
Karl Hansen, bridge engineer for the International Bridge Administration (IBA), reported on the pair of peregrines that nested on the bridge between the U.S. and Canada. Nest boxes for the peregrines have been installed since 2010 on the International Bridge. Last year, the same pair of peregrine falcons hatched two chicks. Over the years, the site has been great success, hatching 35 falcon chicks since IBA staff started counting the birds, Hansen said.
This year’s chicks, two males and a female, were banded by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) team on June 9. Color-coded bands attached to the legs of young birds allow scientists to track the movements, reproductive behavior and population growth of the falcons. In addition to their leg bands, the peregrine chicks received names.
”Since the birds were born on Friday, May 13, the International Bridge staff went with some classic horror movie names,” Hansen said. ”Freddy and Chuckie for the two male chicks, and Carrie for the female.”
Several years ago, the IBA added a video camera trained on the nest box, the “FalCam.” The live video stream, which has become very popular, is viewable at www.saultbridge.com/falcam, offering bird watchers a front row seat for the seasonal activities of the endangered raptors. The best time to view the birds is when they’re nesting in the spring.
Michigan lost its peregrine falcons in the 1960s and 1970s due to the use of DDT and other environmental contaminants. Since conservation efforts started in the mid-1980s, the number of peregrines has fluctuated, but has generally increased since the 1990s, according to the MDNR.
The peregrine falcon has been removed from the federal endangered species list but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law. While they historically nested on cliff faces in Michigan, peregrines have adapted well to city habitats, nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks, bridges, and other man-made structures around the world.
Of all the active peregrine falcon nesting sites monitored by the MDNR in the Upper Peninsula, the International Bridge is the second most productive in terms of chicks hatched, behind only a nest on Grand Portal Cliff at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
High-speed hunters capable of flying at 200 mph, the peregrines may help keep populations of nuisance pigeons under control. While researchers have found pigeons make up a relatively small portion of the falcon diet, the dangerous predators may play a role in frightening them away from bridges. Keeping pigeons away is seen as potentially saving the IBA maintenance money down the line, as pigeon droppings can damage paint on metal bridge surfaces.