Peregrine falcon population on the rise in Michigan

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Michigan’s peregrine falcon population has risen remarkably in the last 30 years, state officials announced.

A peregrine falcon circles outside the windows near its nest while the chicks are checked out and banded by the DNR and Detroit Zoological Society at the Old Macomb County Building in Mt. Clemens, Mich. on June 1, 2015.

Since 1987 the population of peregrine falcons, which are considered endangered in Michigan, has grown from five young birds to 15 nesting pairs, according to a report released last week by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2016, the pairs reared 30 young with nearly half of them in southeast Michigan, officials said.

“The peregrine falcon recovery in southeast Michigan is a true conservation success story,” said Christine Becher, southeast Michigan peregrine falcon nesting coordinator for the DNR. “…We share the same ecosystem with peregrine falcons, and if southeast Michigan is cleaner for peregrine falcons, it is cleaner for all of us.”

Peregrine falcon chicks look inside the Old Macomb County Building’s window after they have been checked out and banded in Mt. Clemens on June 1, 2015.

Southeast Michigan, especially along the Detroit River and its connecting waterways, is a significant part of the peregrines habitat in Michigan, according to the DNR report.

Adult peregrines are crow-sized birds with slate-gray backs, barred breasts and a wingspan of 36 to 44 inches, according to the DNR. The young birds have brown backs and heavily streaked breasts. All peregrines have prominent cheek marks that look like a mustache on each side of their head.

The state began efforts to save its peregrine population in 1986 and the falcons began reproducing successfully in 1993, officials said.

In 2016, there were 54 nest sites in the state, officials said. Of the 29 sites that produced young, 13 were in southeast Michigan.

Michigan’s peregrine falcon population has risen remarkably in the last 30 years, state officials announced.

Each spring Macomb County holds a banding ceremony for its newest peregrine falcons. The first successful nest in the area was on a ledge of the Old Macomb County Building in downtown Mount Clemens in 2008. Since the, peregrine falcons Nick and Hathor, have produced 53 eggs and 26 chicks.

The Eckert Power Station just south of downtown Lansing is among the nest sites. The Lansing Board of Water & Light created the site in 2004 after a staff member shared an interest in endangered birds, said Stephen Serkaian, executive director of public affairs for the Lansing board. Since that time 50 eggs have been laid.

On Thursday, the utility invited the DNR and Potter Park Zoo to band its newest peregrine falcon chicks, three females named Dory, Olive and Misha. The chicks also had their blood drawn and were checked for parasites.

“We have tremendous interest in the Lansing area about the birds,” Serkaian said. “In fact, especially this time of year when the chicks are hatched and the male and female adult birds are feeding them you can see them soaring all around downtown landing as they hunt for food and return to the nest.”

Peregrine can reach speeds up to 180 miles per hour as they dive to catch their prey, according to the DNR. Their diet typically consist of small birds, including pigeons, songbirds and seabirds.

Serkaian said he’s pleased the utility has been able to help the peregrine population. He’s hope to one day see the bird removed from the state’s endangered species list.

“That would be a win-win for everyone,” he said. “A win for the species and a win for our community’s commitment to support efforts to become a greener and cleaner utility.”

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