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Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald , Published May 29 2012

Grand Forks’ peregrine falcons appear to have added to brood

GRAND FORKS - Roosevelt and Terminator appear to have added to their family once again, as Grand Forks birdwatcher Tim Driscoll reports “clear evidence” that the resident peregrine falcons have hatched at least two young.

The pair produced three, one male and two females, each of the past three years at their nest atop the UND water tower, where they returned in late March.

“They were two weeks early this year and laid their eggs early,” Driscoll said. “They started incubating April 18.”

Terminator, the female, changed her behavior about May 21. She would normally fly off to feed, but started instead to receive food brought by her mate, Roosevelt, and take it in to feed her offspring.

Last week, Driscoll found egg shells beneath the water tower. Falcons usually carry egg shells off some distance to foil predators, he said, but the shells are fragile and could have broken off in their beaks as the birds flew.

He said he hopes to catch sight of the new youngsters within days and try to band them in two weeks or so.

“For five days after hatching, they’re just little blobs,” he said. “Then they start to grow like crazy. When mom feeds them, you can see their heads pop up.”

Driscoll and other local birders weren’t certain at first that the peregrine falcon pair claiming residence on the UND tower was the pair they had been watching since 2009. But Driscoll said they have been able to read all of Roosevelt’s identification band and part of Terminator’s.

The falcons had nested in a box Driscoll and his father built and installed in 2006 on the former “Smiley” water tower. When that structure was taken down in 2009, the falcon box was relocated to the tower on campus.

Terminator first arrived in Grand Forks in 2008 and mated with a male named Bear, but Bear didn’t return. Roosevelt, believed to be Bear’s brother, took his place, and the new pair has returned to the city the past three years.

Peregrine falcons, once threatened and not common to this area, preferring mountain cliffs and steep river gorges, have expanded their range by adapting to life in more urban areas with hospitable structures, such as water towers.