Richmond Falcon Cam

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where to Nest?

Biologists with the DGIF Nongame Wildlife Program continue to monitor the Richmond peregrine falcons. We have seen the birds copulating several times recently, indicating that they are preparing to nest. Given the late date, we presume that the pair already has suffered a nest failure this spring.

For the last couple of weeks our biologists have spent considerable time tracking the falcons in downtown Richmond. The pair has focused on the southeast balcony ledge on the 17th floor of the BB&T building; the same balcony used as a nest site by this pair in years past (2003-05). Difficulties associated with this site for both the falcons and biologists led us to block access to the BB&T nestbox after the pair moved to Riverfront Plaza in 2006 (see March 21st blog, below). The female briefly visited the ledge of the Riverfront Plaza nestbox on May 14th, but the gravel in that box shows no sign of disturbance. Both adults have been spending significant amounts of time on their favorite perches in their “downtown” territory.

On Friday, May 15th, DGIF Nongame biologists surveyed all of the BB&T building 17th floor balconies for eggs or prey carcasses, and both falcons aggressively defended the windows at the 17th floor balcony nestbox. An abandoned falcon egg was found on the balcony on the opposite (NW) corner of the 17th floor, but the falcons did not defend any windows other than those at the nestbox. It is surmised that the egg is all that remains from a spring 2009 nest failure. The egg was collected and will be submitted for laboratory testing.

From the birds’ behavior over the last couple of weeks, we believe they are preparing to renest, likely in the downtown area. Given this situation, we decided to accommodate them to the extent possible, rather than continuing to discourage them from nesting on the BB&T balcony. The bricks and cinder blocks placed on the BB&T balcony to discourage nesting were removed, and the nestbox covers will be removed as well, as soon as practicable and without further stressing the adult birds.

As an interesting and perhaps prophetic note, in 2007 this pair was very defensive of the BB&T balcony during their renest courtship right up through May 14th; then on the 15th the female laid the first egg of her renest clutch in the nestbox at Riverfront Plaza! We will simply have to wait and watch.

Update on 2 Richmond Falcon “babies”
A US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist banding chicks at the peregrine falcon nest on the Legg Mason Building in Baltimore discovered that the nesting pair was comprised of two new birds. The male of this new pair was produced by the downtown Richmond pair in 2003, at their original nest site on the BB&T building.

Another Richmond offspring, hatched at Riverfront Plaza in 2006 and then moved to Shenandoah National Park where she was hacked on Hawksbill Mountain, was just discovered nesting in the understructure of a concrete bridge that carries PA Route 472 across the Susquehanna River, between Columbia and Wrightsville in Lancaster County, PA.
These are great examples of the importance of banding these chicks. Not only do we learn more about these birds’ survival and dispersal, but such events underscore the contribution of our Richmond peregrines to falcon restoration in the Appalachians and along the Atlantic coast.