Have a Question About Peregrine Falcons? Ask Jeff!
Every May and June Jeff Meshach, Director of Administration and External Programs, bands the Peregrine babies in at least 5 of the 7 known nests in the St. Louis area. Jeff considers his banding efforts to be one of the greatest privileges in the world. “Getting to put my hands on the fastest animal in the world, even for just a few minutes, is an unforgettable experience.”
HELLO EVERYONE! I am so glad to be able to be writing about our Ameren’s Portage de Sioux Energy Center Peregrine Falcon pair, for the 9th year in a row. As you may have been able to see, the female is on 3 eggs now. Because of the issue currently facing the world (COVID-19), we are a little late getting you the live feed. I’ve some very exciting news to get to, but first I must refresh everyone’s memory on what happened last year.
It’s never a great thing to have to bring up such a negative circumstance, but in the world of wild Peregrine Falcons, it’s something that happens a lot more than most would imagine. The 2 chicks that were growing just fine, and only 3 days from being banded, suddenly died. When chicks are first hatched, they cannot regulate their own body heat, and therefore must be brooded, or kept warm by mom. Once they reach a certain size, mom stops brooding them because they can regulate their own body heat. Last year’s chicks had already reached the age where the female was coming to the box mostly to feed them, but not lingering long. No one realized the female had abandoned the chicks until it was too late.
When we get as far into the nesting season as we did last year, and the female is suddenly gone, one of two things can be assumed. First assumption; the female somehow died while away from the nest. Second assumption; the chicks died and when the female came to the nest and realized they had, she abandoned the nest. With the chicks seemingly healthy, my first assumption was the female died. That assumption has been proven wrong. She’s back!
We know it’s our female because of the bands she has on her legs. On her left leg she has a black over green band. In the black colored field there’s a sideways D. In the green field there’s a sideways V. The green field has faded considerably, so the band had to be in just the right light to see it. Our great and diligent cameraman not only focused in to get the sideways V, but was also able to get a good look at the band on her right leg. That band is a United States Fish and Wildlife Service band, and we were able to see enough of the numbered sequence to get the positive ID on her. To refresh, our female was named Lizard by the person that banded her on a cliff nest within a Minnesota state park. Lizard was banded as a chick in 2006. The male of this year’s pair, the same male as the last 4 years, was banded and released through the process of hacking, in 2004, at a power plant in southeastern Missouri.
The second assumption about the 2019 chick deaths is probably what occurred. The chicks died at about 17 days old. There are many diseases birds die from, and without being able to collect the bodies quickly, we weren’t able to find a reason. Our team deeply cares for the well being of our Peregrines, but a higher priority is our safety. It’s no easy feat getting to the nest box, and by the time we would have been safely able to get there, the bodies would have decayed enough where it would have been very hard to find cause of death. We shall all look at 2019 as a tragedy, but our female produced and raised to fledging 12 chicks the 4 years before that. In Peregrine Falcon nesting terms, that great success. We shall all hope she continues her success in 2020.
Please remember to send us your questions. I’ll be answering them weekly, along with updates on our pair, and hopefully in mid April, all their chicks. Talk to you soon!
Jeff Meshach, Deputy Director