by Joni Astrup
Peregrine falcons — the world’s fastest bird — are nesting again atop Great River Energy in Elk River after a rocky start this spring.
The falcon pair that has been nesting at GRE for the last several years returned to the nesting box in early March. Four eggs were laid in mid-April.
But on April 22, the female falcon disappeared from the nesting box, according to Jennifer Howell, GRE external communications specialist. It’s not known what became of her.
The male falcon attempted to incubate the eggs in the female’s absence but he, too, eventually left the box, Howell said.
However, the male has since returned to the nesting box with a new female, a banded falcon named Dot. She hatched and was banded in June 2007 at Xcel Energy’s Blackdog Power Plant in Burnsville.
Dot laid four eggs in the Elk River nesting box the week of May 11. They are expected to hatch around June 18, Howell said.
A “bird cam” keeps tabs on the nest box. To see the birds, go to http://www.greatriverenergy.com.
Great River Energy expects to have the young — called eyasses — banded the week of July 4.
This is the fifth year peregrine falcons are nesting at the GRE power plant, located at 17845 Highway 10.
A Boy Scout built the original nesting box as part of his Eagle Scout project in 2006. The box was replaced in 2010 as a local Elk River student’s 4-H project.
Peregrines first nested at GRE in 2007. Since then 13 young peregrines have “fledged” or left the nesting box. The young birds were all banded, but Howell said none has been recorded anywhere. “We are keeping an eye out for them,” she said.
GRE’s Elk River power plant is a considered a desirable site for a nesting box because it is located in a peregrine falcon migratory flyway. The site, beside the Mississippi River, is also a draw because the birds prefer to nest in high locations near water, according to GRE.
The peregrine is the world’s fastest bird. When it goes into a dive, it can reach speeds of 175 mph.