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Four falcon chicks banded at Harbor Island power plant

Alex Doty • Jun 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM

State wildlife biologist Nik Kalejs, joined by Board of Light & Power employees Matt McKee and Mike Kilebrew, climbed 240 feet up the J.B. Sims Generating Station chimney on Harbor Island to band this year’s peregrine falcon brood.

Four peregrine falcon chicks were banded Wednesday morning at the Sims plant — two males and two females.

The BLP nest site has produced 42 chicks since the first pair of wild peregrine falcons began nesting on the chimney 16 years ago.

“These stacks and tall buildings do provide the (proper environment) to nest,” said Kalejs, who works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Peregrines typically nest on ledges of rock cliffs, but they have adapted to use man-made nesting boxes atop towers, chimneys and tall buildings.

Peregrine falcons have produced chicks at the BLP’s nest site each spring beginning in 2001 through 2013, and again last spring. The Grand Haven site has produced and banded 25 females and 17 males.

“The male is from the 2004 banding,” Kalejs said of the breeding pair. “That’s virtually unheard of.”

Peregrine falcons were listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1970, after their Midwest population was eliminated in the mid-1960s due to problems with the pesticide DDT. In 1999, following extensive restoration efforts, the peregrine was removed from the federally endangered species list, but it remains on the Michigan endangered species list.

Kalejs noted that there was one casualty during Wednesday’s banding session, when a young chick fell from the nesting box and landed on the roof below.

“Unfortunately, one of them got overly rambunctious,” he said.

According to Kalejs, although the survival rate among young peregrine chicks is about 50 percent, the efforts to bring them back have been successful.

“Enough of them make it that we’ve seen a tremendous comeback,” he said. “This will be eight that I’ve banded (in 2017). We ended up not doing any in Grand Rapids for various reasons.”

In addition to the Grand Haven brood, Kalejs said he banded three chicks in Kalamazoo and one chick at Consumers Energy’s J.H. Campbell Generating Complex in West Olive in May. The nesting pair at the Campbell plant had three eggs this year, but only one of them hatched.

Since 2004, Consumers Energy and the DNR have partnered to band peregrines. Like at the BLP, a box has been placed on the plant’s emission stack for the purpose of nesting.

Nearly 40 chicks have hatched at the complex — 37 of which have been banded.

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