Falcons making a comeback on area bridges

May 23, 2008 4:38:19 PM PDT
An endangered bird of prey is slowly making a comeback, with protection and nurturing by wildlife agents. A four-week old peregrine falcon was born on a perch high atop the Betsy Ross Bridge. It hatched in one of several nesting boxes wildlife experts placed on bridges between Pennsylvania and New Jersey to encourage nesting and support the endangered species. Another chick was removed from a nesting box under the deck of the Girard Point Bridge.

Biologists installed the nests up to 18 years ago. They started seeing activity a few years ago and this year, spotted eggs, and hatchlings.

"Peregrine falcons are amazing. They are they've been clocked as the fastest bird in the world. They can go over 200 miles an hour in a dive after prey," said Kathy Clark, a biologist with the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife service.

Only Action News was there when wildlife experts climbed to a Tacony-Palmyra Bridge nesting box to tag the baby falcons, despite the protests of their distressed predator parents. "Banding allows us to track the birds, see their movements, identify them where they set up new nest site to monitor pop size." Clark says : "They are good indicators of what is in our environment and so their recovery speaks to our environment as well as theirs."

In the 1960's there was no falcon population east of the Mississippi. Now hundreds of falcons are being tracked in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York. That recovery is largely due to efforts in New Jersey.

As part of an east coast falcon recovery program, the Betsy Ross nestlings will be nurtured then released in the mountains of West Virginia. One will stay in a Pennsylvania reserve. And some will thrive above the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge until they're ready to fly, hunt and venture out on their own.