Conserve Wildlife Blog

Photos from the Field: Falcons rule the roost at Sheraton Hotel in AC

November 7th, 2021

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Putting the final touches on a new nestbox for peregrine falcons in Atlantic City, NJ. photo by Kathy Clark/ENSP

This past week I had the pleasure of assisting Supervising Zoologist, Kathy Clark with NJ Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program to install a new nestbox for state endangered peregrine falcons. The new nestbox was installed atop the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel. Peregrine falcons are not new to Atlantic City. They have nested in A.C. since 1987, where the first pair nested on the 23rd floor of the Hilton/Atlantic Club. Since then new pairs have established nests on other tall buildings and structures, like the Hard Rock Casino and A.C. water tower.

It is no surprise to see the local population grow here. It is optimal habitat for falcons, with tall buildings to host nests and open habitat for them to forage for prey. Falcons have adapted to nest in many urban areas of the state and we try to support their attempts to nest in these areas. With the new nestbox we installed in A.C. on Friday, it was placed on the roof of the Sheraton Hotel for a pair that successfully nested in their sign last summer.

Sheraton sign where the pair successfully nested this past year. That would explain why misc. bird parts were found by Tun Tavern staff on their patio..

We believe that the pair nested in the remnants of a crow nest, which consisted of a few sticks and other nest debris. Falcons do not build nests of their own but instead nest in a scrape or shallow depression, sometimes in old nests of other birds. The nest was discovered after a male fledgling was found on the ground outside of the Tun Tavern. He was successfully captured, rehabbed and released after being banded in early June. Then later that month, a female fledgling was found on the ground and she was banded and placed on the roof by Kathy. She ended up on the ground again and was placed back on the roof. The third fledgling, another female, was not encountered so she did not get banded. One of the adults was identified by her bands, BD/60, a four year old who originated from a nest in Stone Harbor. We hope to identify the male next year.  

Even though this nest was successful, it was not a great place for them to nest. With such a small area for the young to strengthen their wing muscles and practice flights to and from the nest, most young would not have chances of successfully fledging and returning to their nest (hence the fact that two fledglings ended up on the ground this past summer). Kathy knew that the she needed to do something to help ensure that more fledgling falcons didn’t end up on the ground where they are vulnerable.

She reached out to building management staff at the Sheraton Hotel, who were excited to find out that falcons had taken up residence on their building, and they gave permission for a nestbox to be installed atop their building! This is often the hardest part with establishing new falcons nests, as once the nest is occupied it cannot be disturbed, so access to roof areas is then limited to outside of the nesting season. Sheraton staff helped choose the best location on their roof that gets the least amount of disturbance, which is very important to attract falcons to nest. Buildings with nests cannot be disturbed from March until after the young fledge, usually into July.

To install the nestbox, which is actually a Dog house/igloo/Dogloo, aka the “Peregloo” we had to get it and associated materials (half sheet of 3/4″ plywood, rubber matting, 150# of gravel and tools) up to the 16th floor and out onto the roof. It certainly wasn’t easy to get something that is meant to be placed in your backyard up a steep staircase and over a 10′ parapet wall on the roof of a seventeen story building! Luckily, the igloo did fit through the rooftop access door!! The most difficult part was getting the thick and heavy rubber mat up the steep stairs and over the parapet wall using A-frame ladders. After doing that, the rest of the work was a dream. After installing the nestbox and filling it with pea gravel, Kathy installed some astroturf onto a great perch for the adults. Both of these additions are what we hope will lure the birds from the signs to the roof (the sticks from the signs will also be removed so that they cannot nest there anymore).

We could tell that falcons have been on the roof, as there were a few prey remains (bird wings, feet, bones), so we hope that the pair will find and utilize the new nestbox! It will give the pair a better chance of successfully fledging young who do not end up on the ground (hopefully). Thank you to all staff and management of the Sheraton hotel and Tun Tavern who have supported the falcons and our effort to provide a safe place for them to nest! Once the nest is occupied, we may consider installing a live streaming camera… stay tuned!

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4 Responses to “Photos from the Field: Falcons rule the roost at Sheraton Hotel in AC”

  1. LeAnn says:

    Will you be installing a web cam so we can watch and enjoy the Peregrines? Thanks for this information and all you do for the wildlife.

  2. Barb McKee says:

    What fun! What a great story! Seems like a perfect location for a new Peregloo!! It is so gratifying to see that work continues into the fall to protect and help our precious raptors.

  3. Rick Weiman says:

    Many thanks to you both for your efforts on the falcon’s and NJ’s endangered and threatened wildlife. And the Sheraton hotel chain has been just added to my list of hotels to book for future trips. Thank you Sheraton!

  4. Ben Wurst says:

    Hi LeAnn, Management staff at the Sheraton mentioned adding a camera as well, but first we need to see if the pair occupies the new nestbox! 🙂 Thank you for your support!

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