Endangered Falcons Settle into a Custom-Made Love Nest, Courtesy of UB

Release Date: April 15, 2009 This content is archived.


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A pair of peregrine falcons have made their home in the tower of the UB South Campus' MacKay Heating Plant.

Located at the top of the Mackay Heating Plant tower, the nesting box offers a spectacular view.

UB Facilities carpenters constructed a nesting box for the falcons, filling it with fine gravel to imitate the cliffs where the birds usually nest.

Workers used a ladder to climb the 137-foot tower in order to install the nesting box.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A pair of peregrine falcons has settled into its custom-made nesting box situated on top of MacKay Heating Plant on the University at Buffalo's South (Main Street) Campus, thanks to the cooperative efforts of the University at Buffalo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The pair's arrival in Western New York marks a positive sign in the decades-long effort to reintroduce this endangered species in the Northeast, according to the DEC.

"Adequate nesting habitat plays a critical role in the peregrine falcons' comeback, and this new box provides an ideal nesting location," said Connie Adams, senior wildlife biologist for the DEC. "Based on the courtship behavior observed, we anticipate the falcon pair using this new nest box may already be sitting on eggs."

According to Adams, chicks (known as eyases) generally hatch about four weeks after the last egg is laid.

The idea of placing a nesting box at UB took shape last spring when local birdwatchers Vicki Kadow and Roger Johnson notified DEC that they had observed peregrine falcons frequenting areas around UB's South Campus, near the university's MacKay Heating Plant.

DEC biologists confirmed the sighting, and asked the university to consider hosting a nesting box.

"Since MacKay Heating Plant is an historic building, we obtained special permission from the New York State Office of Historic Preservation before installing the box," said Ronald C. Van Splunder, manager of architectural support for UB Facilities Planning and Design.

UB Facilities carpenters constructed the nesting box, under Van Splunder's direction, and installed it on Feb. 26 near the top of the MacKay Heating Plant tower, 137 feet above the ground.

The male and female falcons, which local birdwatchers have named "Smokey" and "Misty," were observed together in the nesting box as early as March 24, Van Splunder said.

A recent DEC report noted that New York State now has the largest population of peregrines in the Eastern United States.

According to the DEC, peregrines typically build their nests on high ledges or cliffs that are 50 to 200 feet off the ground, but are also known to readily adopt artificial nest boxes placed on tall buildings or bridges in urban areas where cliff sites are unavailable.

"When placed on buildings or bridges, peregrine falcon nest boxes can greatly increase nesting productivity by providing a tray of fine gravel that keeps eggs from getting damaged or rolling off, as well as by providing some shelter from the weather," said the DEC's Adams. "Nesting peregrine falcon pairs typically return to the same nesting site year after year."

Peregrine falcons feed almost entirely on birds, and are known for their dramatic dives on prey, attaining speeds of over 200 miles per hour.

Classified as an endangered bird species in New York State, they were completely eliminated from the Eastern United States in the 1960s, mainly due to pesticide residues in their bird prey, which caused reduced breeding success.

Due to reintroduction efforts started in New York State and followed by other Eastern states, this species' population has grown steadily.

According to the DEC, Western New York is already home to several peregrine falcon nest sites, including the nest box located atop the Statler building in downtown Buffalo, the nest box on the South Grand Island Bridge and an old power plant ledge on the Canadian side of the Niagara Gorge.

"The need for an additional nesting site in this area is encouraging and confirms the success of extensive restoration efforts," said Adams.

More information on peregrine falcons is available from the DEC, http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7059.html, which recently published the "2008 State Peregrine Falcons Report." The report documents the presence of 67 territorial pairs of state endangered peregrine falcons, in New York State, slightly more than half of which were recorded in upstate New York.

In 2008, 60 of these pairs bred and hatched 130 young.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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