A Close Call
On the afternoon of Fri, July 31st, a DGIF biologist responded to a call of a grounded osprey chick in downtown Richmond. The caller reported having shooed the bird from the Manchester Bridge, where cars were swerving to avoid hitting it, onto the adjacent grassy lawn of the Federal Reserve Building. The Manchester Bridge sits between the Riverfront Plaza, where Richmond's peregrine falcon pair have nested this year, and the Federal Reserve Building. Upon arrival at the scene, the biologist was surprised to see that the ‘osprey’ chick was none other than the banded male peregrine falcon chick. This chick was known to have been spending time on the parapet of the ledge of the Riverfront Plaza and had evidently fallen or been swept off the ledge by a gust of wind. Luckily, the bird was unharmed and was returned to the Riverfront Plaza ledge shortly thereafter.
Although DGIF biologists had decided to leave these three falcons to fledge naturally this year – the recent mishap has caused us to reevaluate our approach. In the past we have utilized a pen to prevent premature fledging. Young falcons leaving the nest before they are fully ready to fly is a serious hazard – one that was experienced before by this pair (see http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/falconcam2008/2007-archive.asp). To ensure that these three chicks are well developed and capable of full flight when they fledge, we have decided to use the pen.
On the morning of August 1st, two DGIF biologists accessed the ledge and found the male chick again perched on the parapet. All three chicks were removed from the ledge while the pen was installed; the chicks were then placed in the pen under the watchful eyes of the adults. The entire process took less than two hours.
The pen allows ample room for the young to exercise their wings (indeed the pen is larger then many peregrine falcon scrapes). The adults are able to feed the young through the pen wires. At this stage the chicks do not need brooding, and are able to feed themselves from prey brought by the adults. A sunshade has been added to the roof of the pen to provide shelter from the sun. When the chicks have fully developed and are capable of flight, a remote door-opening mechanism will be installed on the pen. The door will then slowly open, allowing the chicks to fledge without human intrusion.