Conserve Wildlife Blog

Photo(s) from the field

December 10th, 2010

Protecting peregrine falcon nest sites

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Ice covers a sheltered creek along the D. Bay. © Ben Wurst

While cold temperatures may have many people enjoying some time getting office work done, I enjoy working outside despite temperatures in the 30s. Yesterday, with help from Bill Pitts, a wildlife technician with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program and Alf Breed, a seasonal technician with Conserve Wildlife Foundation we set out on the Delaware Bay to install a set of new predator guards on a peregrine falcon nesting tower near Heislerville. The new predator guards require little maintenance and more importantly help protect their nestlings from being predated by ground predators, like raccoons.

No doubt it was cold and windy. The small creek where we launched our boat already had ice on it! An uncommon sight in early December. This was a clear indication that winter is here to stay, but that it didn’t dampen our mood. So we launched boat and set out to the nest site. After a short boat ride we arrived at the site. One adult peregrine (a female) was perched on the tower. In New Jersey, nesting pairs are territorial throughout the year. She called to defend her nest site and flew off and watched us from a nearby perch. We unloaded gear and started removing the old predator guards.

Alf Breed attaches a predator guard to a pole on a peregrine tower. © Ben Wurst

In 2009, I began to install these new inverted cone predator type guards on peregrine nesting towers. The guards were custom fabricated by Babbitt Manufacturing, Inc. in Vineland. The new cones replace antiquated metal sleeve type predator guards which required annual maintenance during the non-breeding season. We first installed a prototype on a nest tower located inside Forsythe NWR in Oceanville. The new cone passed the test by withstanding 70 mph wind gusts during the winter of 2009. A complete set (of four cones) was then installed there and at another nest site on the saltmarsh in Manahawkin.

The finished product. © Ben Wurst

There are nine towers where peregrines nest along the coast of New Jersey. After the peregrine population was decimated by DDT in the 1960s, efforts were made to help re-establish the population.  It began in the 1970s after the federal ban of DDT in 1972. The first tower was installed in 1975 inside Sedge Island Wildlife Management Area. The Peregrine Fund and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife began to “hack” peregrine falcons at this site to help re-establish breeding pairs to New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic region. In the following years the program was expanded, and in 1980 a pair of wild peregrines nested on a tower. Since then, the population has slowly rebounded.  Today, peregrines nest on a variety of structures in New Jersey including buildings, bridges, natural cliff sites, and these old “hacking” towers. In 2009, a total of 14 pairs nested in New Jersey.

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