Falcons banded at BLP

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:42 PM

Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Nik Kalejs and BLP employees Matt McKee and Mike Killibrew made the climb to see the 13th consecutive brood raised by a pair of rare wild Peregrine falcons that began nesting on the power plant’s chimney in 2001.

Kalejs reported one healthy chick in the nest box.

“It’s always fun to climb the stack and help with the banding," McKee said. "Not many people get an opportunity to handle a Peregrine falcon. Climbing up the tower to meet the chick gives you an adrenaline rush of excitement and makes it such an awesome experience.”

Kalejs said Friday that the chick is about 24 days old.

“With the BLP’s camera and recording system, we were able to pinpoint the hatch date, which is very beneficial for timing the banding,” he said.

According to Kalejs, it can be difficult to determine gender in the young birds.

“Determining gender is based on the size of the bird and its talons,” he explained. “This year’s chick was on the larger side, so we placed the female band on and the fit was right. Band fit is another method for determining gender when there are no other chicks for comparison of size, such as this year."

Peregrine falcons have produced chicks at the Grand Haven nest site each year since spring 2001, bringing the total to 34 — 20 females and 14 males — with this year's brood.

Kalejs said the Grand Haven site continues to be one of the top ranking Peregrine nests in Michigan.

“A few years ago, there were virtually no nests on the west side of the state, and now they are beginning to pop up everywhere," he said. "It is a very gratifying feeling, and you find yourself filled with excitement to see such consistent growth at the nesting site in the BLP tower from year to year."

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 over use of the pesticide DDT. Following extensive restoration efforts, the Peregrine falcon was removed from the federally endangered species list in 1999, but it remains on the Michigan endangered species list.

“Restoration efforts have come a long way and can be attributed to restrictions on the use of pesticides — including DDT — man-made structures and hacking programs,” Kalejs said. “Banding these birds is truly one of the highlights of the year."

Birdwatchers can watch the Peregrine falcons from Linear Park on Harbor Island. The young falcon, called an "eya," will begin to learn to fly, or “fledge,” in 3-4 weeks. She is expected to remain in the area until fall before migrating south for the winter.

The Grand Haven nest site is one of four confirmed Peregrine falcon nests in the western half of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The other sites are the B.C. Cobb power plant in Muskegon, the J.H. Campbell power plant in Port Sheldon Township and the Kent County Court Building in downtown Grand Rapids.

Adult Peregrines will mate for life, and generally use the same nesting site each year.

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