Falcons are back at UB

Yankee and Dixie have returned to the nesting box at the top of MacKay Heating Plant.

Published May 13, 2014

One of UB’s popular spring rituals — falcon-watching — is in full swing with the return of peregrine falcons Dixie and Yankee to their South Campus nesting box.

At last count, three eggs were in the nesting box at the top of MacKay Heating Plant along Winspear Avenue at the southeast corner of the campus, marking the sixth consecutive year a female peregrine falcon has laid eggs in the nesting box.

Local bird enthusiasts are certain the falcon parents are Dixie and Yankee; Yankee is the second male to inhabit the nesting box since it was installed in 2009 by UB Facilities staff working with local officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Buffalo Audubon Society.

Dixie is Yankee’s second partner, moving into the nest last spring after Yankee’s previous mate BB —the original female to inhabit the box — was removed from the nest by DEC biologists and placed in a permanent care facility. BB had shown unusually aggressive behavior, swooping down on people on and near the South Campus.

Falcon eggs typically hatch after an incubation period of 29-32 days, according to information from the DEC, with the female spending most of the time on the eggs. The male will incubate the eggs while the female flies off to feed.  Bird lovers can watch Yankee and Dixie live on UB’s Falcon Cam.

Once the chicks hatch, they usually stay in the nest for about six weeks. DEC biologists band the chicks to identify and monitor them for the rest of their lives.

While biologists say falcon chicks are unlikely to return once they leave the nest, their parents frequently return to the same nest to raise another brood. Yankee and Dixie hatched four chicks in the MacKay nesting box last year.

Threatened by pesticides, peregrine falcons were considered an endangered species by the federal government until 1999 when recovery efforts prompted their removal from the list. Because they still are listed as endangered in New York, the state and partners such as UB are working to boost their numbers.

Since 2009, 19 fledglings have hatched at UB.