Conserve Wildlife Blog

Management of Urban Nesting Falcons in New Jersey

May 16th, 2018

Human Interaction and Quick Action Ensure Survival of Young Falcons in Urban Areas

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Yesterday NJ Fish & Wildlife Zoologist Kathy Clark and I visited 101 Hudson St. after watching the Jersey City Falcon Cam for several days since the first and only egg hatched on Wednesday evening, we became more and more concerned for the health of the 5 day old eyas. We also came upon a brood of three young (and healthy) falcons who were displaced (we’ve called them orphans) from the old Goethals Bridge, which is currently being deconstructed. Knowing that the orphans needed a home, we decided to visit JC and assess the health of the lone eyas, collect the unhatched eggs, and possibly foster in the orphans here.

The nest and eyases that were found during the demolition of the Goethals Bridge on May 7. photo courtesy Brian Kelly

We first met with Cathy Malok of the Raptor Trust to get the orphan eyases, who came from the Goethals Bridge and were nursed back to health. They were found when a giant steel girder was brought down from the bridge onto a nearby construction area (this was on Monday, May 7). The crew working on the bridge had no idea there was a falcon nest inside the bridge and that there were tiny hatchlings (we believe they hatched around May 5) inside the girder. They were not found until the next day when construction workers heard chirping sounds and acted fast to cut open the steel girder to find out what was inside (the entrance to the girder/nest was from the bottom and it was closed off once lowering it to the ground). Lo and behold there were three hatchlings in there! At that age, without close parental care, the young eyases would not survive, so Kathy directed the environmental staff to put them in a box and keep them warm.

I don’t know how they survived” said Kathy as she explained the ordeal to colleagues. Kathy arrived at the site in the morning on Tuesday, May 8 and said that they were almost cold to the touch. She picked up the hatchling eyases and gave one to each person standing in the construction office to warm with their hands. Warming them up by hand helped ensure their ultimate survival, along with some tiny bits of food. After that, Kathy met up with Cathy from TRT where they would go to be nourished back to health.

The young were placed in a box after being found inside the steel girder. photo courtesy Brian Kelly

After being under the care of staff at TRT for almost a week, we knew that we had to find another nest to foster them into. That was not easy. We visited many nests throughout New Jersey and checked data for nests already checked. It was impossible to find another nest with few young that were around the same age, except for one: Jersey City. But we were concerned with the overall health of the lone eyas and didn’t want to foster in three (slightly older), very healthy eyases to jeopardize survival of their lone offspring.

In the end, after assessing the health of the JC eyas up close, we decided the foster all three orphan eyases into the JC nest. This would give 41/AX the chance to use her great parental skills to provide for the three young while we help nurse the JC eyas back to health. We hope to foster the JC eyas into another nest but first we have to get him healthy (I say him, but it is hard to tell the sex right now)

These are always tough decisions to make and we know that not everyone is happy that we intervened, but in the scheme of things, we had to act or the lone JC eyas would not have survived, and we wanted to find the best home for the three survivors of the Goethals Bridge demolition. This kind of effort is what brought falcons back to New Jersey, now with a stable population of at least 30 nesting pairs.

We’re appreciative to everyone who has watched this camera over the years and supported our efforts to keep NJ’s oldest streaming wildlife focused camera online. We are tentatively planning to band the three orphans at 101 Hudson St. on May 29. We may or may not stream live, but either way we will be shooting video to share with you later.

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14 Responses to “Management of Urban Nesting Falcons in New Jersey”

  1. Barb McKee says:

    This is a great story! How wonderful that the nestlings from the bridge are now safe in a new home with foster parents! Hopefully the little 4th eyas, the original from the JC nest, will get strong and find a new home. Why was he weakened in the first place?
    The falcon cams are great to gain understanding and appreciation of these beautiful “lords of the wind.”

  2. Betty Butler says:

    This intervention is so important. It’s encouraging to know about it. Please keep informing.

  3. Ben says:

    Hey Barb, We aren’t sure why he was failing to thrive like normal falcons, but we hope to learn more now that he is in the great hands of staff at Tri-State Bird Rescue! We hope to get an update once they get a chance to examine him and we’ll be sure to share that news with everyone.

  4. Carol Dillingham says:

    I ran across this the day you switched the eyas, amazing! I stayed to make sure she would feed them. Still checking on them. Would love to know about the lone one taken.

  5. Lisa Kennedy says:

    Hi Ben, Thanks so much for this post. It is such a wonderful story. I really hope they all do well, and that the little one will be ok. As you know, I’ve mainly followed the Forsythe osprey cam but will start looking at falcon cams now too! I know absolutely nothing about falcons other than they’re wonderful to watch in flight. Can you or anyone who posts here recommend a good reference book to get me started? Thanks!

  6. Ben says:

    Hey Carol, Junior is doing good. We are planning to foster him into another nest today!

  7. Val says:

    Thank you for the interesting story and taking care of all chicks. Here is an alternative view: Chicks of different age my not get along so it is better to be separated. As for the parents, their primary instinct had been satisfied — the chirping of hungry chicks. Probably they would not notice they are not theirs.

  8. Lisa Kennedy says:

    That’s fantastic news, Ben! Where will he be going?

  9. Sue Hines says:

    The foster babies are certainly thriving, and glad to hear the original eyas has bounced back. Did you ever find out why s/he had failed to thrive? How many eggs were in that clutch? I’m interested in the large number of failed eggs this season. Many thanks.

  10. Ben says:

    Hey, We just fostered Junior into another nest on Monday! Make sure to check out the most recent NestBox News entry! http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/falconcam

  11. Ben says:

    We aren’t really sure why he wasn’t thriving, but after some great care at Tri-State Bird Rescue, we fostered him into another nest! Full story here (scroll down to NestBox News): http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/falconcam

  12. Ben says:

    The lone eyas, aka “Junior” was fostered into a nest on Monday. More info in NestBox News: http://www.conservewildlifenj.org/falconcam

  13. Lisa Kennedy says:

    That was wonderful to see, Ben! Great nest out there. Junior looks so much better!
    I hope he will settle in well. Looking forward to hearing how he’s doing in a couple of weeks.

  14. Mary Picard says:

    Thank you all for the great work you do! When I was still teaching in New York City, bird cams were a great way to engage students in the mysteries and excitement of studying birds….how they grow, what issues they face, and, let’s face it, how fascinatingly cute they are!

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