St Georges Falcons. Photo credit: Craig Koppie/USFWS
Peregrine Falcons Chicks Rescued After Fall From Delaware Bridge
This June a pair of juvenile peregrine falcons were rescued after crash landing onto the roadway under the St. Georges Bridge which spans the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. The fledglings were attempting their first flight.
Preferred nesting areas for peregrine falcons are naturally-occurring cliffs. But in Delaware peregrine falcons have instead used several high bridges as surrogate nesting sites. But the St. Georges Bridge can be a risky place for juvenile falcons preparing for their first flights. Young birds have fallen into the C&D Canal or landed on the deck of the bridge, often resulting in mortality.
But luckily for this pair, citizens saw and reported the falcons on the deck and roadbed of the bridge. Agents from the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement rescued the falcons and transported them to Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark.
After examination and a few days of observation at Tri-State Bird Rescue both falcons were ready to be returned to their nest. On Wednesday, June 12, Chesapeake Bay Field Office biologist, Craig Koppie, attempted to reintroduce the two juveniles, both females, to their parents.
Since the original nest site was pretty inaccessible, he placed the falcons on the catwalk of the bridge, giving them a safer place to exercise their wings and make short flights. To minimize risk of the birds immediately taking flight, he immersed the young falcons in water to soak their body and flight feathers. Food was place along the catwalk so the young falcons would concentrate on eating while they were drying off.
The adult falcons immediately recognized their offspring from on high and became aggressive towards Koppie. This signaled that the parents would defend their offspring and continue to care for their needs.
The juveniles would likely be airborne again in a day or two, this time for good. However, heavy thunderstorms were forecast over the next few days with strong winds. Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist, Anthony Gonzon, continued to monitor the birds and bridge site. Within a couple days one of the young birds was located on the bridge taking food from its parent and the second was seen flying nearby. Delaware’s peregrine falcon population had grown by two!
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