Conserve Wildlife Blog

Photos From the Field: Bonnet Island Falcon Tower

February 23rd, 2018

Not your average birdhouse…

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

We were subcontracted by NJDOT to install a new nesting tower for peregrine falcons in Stafford Twp., Ocean County. We’ve assisted NJ Fish & Wildlife with monitoring the falcon nest that was previously located beneath the Route 72 Causeway Bridge for the past several years. The new tower is located on Bonnet Island and highly visible on the eastbound side of Route 72.

The nest was first found before construction began on the bridge (this is often how new falcon nests on bridges are found). The pair has not been successful in their attempts to nest under the bridge, despite our attempts and that of the construction crew to help ensure their safety. To help give the birds a safe place to nest during construction, contractors built a nestbox that was installed under the bridge in 2016. That year was the first year that the pair was successful. Two young were banded but did not survive to fledge. Then in 2017 we collected two unhatched eggs. The location of the nestbox under the bridge was not adequate for falcons to successfully fledge. They needed a site with better airflow so that the young could strengthen their muscles and allow wind flowing over their wings to make their first flights.

The new tower we built was meant to lure the birds away from the bridge (to not impact construction of the bridge, even though the falcons tolerated the disturbance very well) while giving them a safe place to raise young. We always seek to use locally sourced/reclaimed/salvaged wood to help reduce environmental impacts while supporting our local economy. Everything about this tower was custom designed and handmade. We constructed the tower from locally grown and milled atlantic white-cedar, which has supreme resistance to insects and decay outside. The post and beam structure is 16′ high and 8′ square. It is fastened using stainless and galvanized hardware to resist corrosion. Atop the tower is a XL “Dogloo” nestbox, which is filled with the “peregrine aphrodisiac” or pea gravel that we source from a protected site in Cape May County. We finished the tower with custom railings, painted aluminum predator guards and a separate perch for the adults to feed away from the nest.

With the beginning of the falcon nesting beginning next month, we are anxious to see the birds use the new tower. The next time you visit Long Beach Island you will see this new tower greet you as you drive east over Manahawkin Bay. We hope this helps bring more awareness to how humans and endangered wildlife can coexist in some of the most developed areas of the New Jersey coast. 🙂

Special thanks to volunteers, Matt T., John K., and Wayne R., NJDOT staff, and the WSP crew! Without all of their help, we would not have been able to complete this project. Thank you all for your support!!

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