T  O  N  A  W  A  N  D  A      N  E  W  S     tonawanda-news.com

Published: June 19, 2009 10:45 pm     

ENVIRONMENT: Falcons nesting under south GI bridge

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Statler Towers. U.B. south campus. North Grand Island Bridge. And now, the south Grand Island Bridge.

Peregrine falcons, once on the brink of extinction, have been making a comeback, and a fourth pair of adults have settled in the Buffalo area, this time on a steel girder beneath the deck of the south Grand Island Bridge.

What’s unique about this location is that it’s the first of the four local nests that’s not man-made.

The birds apparently settled on the bridge earlier this spring, and the habitat helped the pair produce three chicks, two females and one male. The chicks, called eyases, are in the process of developing feathers.

New York state Department of Environmental Conservation officials announced the discovery Friday afternoon.

“We are thrilled with the discovery of another pair of nesting peregrine falcons in the area,” said Connie Adams, senior wildlife biologist with the DEC. “The presence of this new nesting pair is tremendous evidence of this species’ comeback and reaffirms the success of restoration efforts.”

Pesticide residue in their bird prey caused reduced breeding success, and led to the falcon’s complete elimination from the eastern United States in the 1960s. State and federal pesticide regulation and reintroduction efforts in New York and other eastern states has led the bird of prey to bounce back.

It remains, however, classified as an endangered bird species in New York.

The area’s first pair of peregrine falcons, which mate for life, arrived in 1998 and settled in a manmade box constructed by the DEC on Buffalo’s Statler Towers. Other manmade nests were placed on the north Grand Island Bridge in 2001 and the Mackay Heating Plant tower at U.B. in February 2009.

The area’s four nests are inhabited by 21 birds, and all could be a common sight along the Niagara River for years to come.

“Since nesting peregrine falcon pairs typically return to the same site year after year, we can look forward to seeing activity at all these locations again next spring,” Adams said.

Peregrine falcons typically build nests on high ledges or cliffs, 50 to 200 feet off the ground. They feed almost entirely off other smaller birds and their dramatic dives can attain speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, according to the DEC.