Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bling for a falcon

Took a group of students out to band two Peregrine Falcon chicks today near Pittston, PA. Peregrine Falcons largely disappeared from the eastern US but made a slow recovery since the 1970's. The decline was largely caused by exposure to the insecticide DDT and exposure to heavy metals, notably cadmium. Since the Clean Air Act and the banning of DDT in the US and Canada, Peregrine Falcons have been and are still increasing. 

Man-made structure have been key in recovery and I have seen nests on bridges and buildings but cliffs are the natural nesting habitat for this species. Today's trip was to a cliff overlooking the Susquehanna River giving us a beautiful view of the valley. 

The amazing recovery of the Peregrine Falcon has been due to environmental regulation and a host of dedicated citizens and scientists working hard for several decades. We put aluminum bands on them so we can recognize individuals. Sounds like a small thing but this helps us to understand how birds move to new and old areas, how long they live, their health and many other aspects of their life that would remain a mystery if we couldn't band birds. 

Here are some pictures of the site, the birds, and the process. 

Greg, a Wilkes graduate, goes dangling over the side. And you thought ornithology was boring. He will be placing the falcon chicks in bags. 

Art keeps an eye on Greg below and will pull the chicks up while Greg patiently waits below. Art organizes the banding and this was his fifteenth brood that he banded this year so far. 
Art checks on the health of a male chick (I recognize him from the random feather sticking to his back). Chicks are checked for parasites of the ear, throat, cloaca, and skin.
Momma falcon keeping an eye on the process
Momma falcon sweeping by. She was amazing calm and kept perched most of the time.
Chick being checked out by Bill of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center.
Chicks are remarkably calm during the process

Good luck baby falcons

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