Two young peregrine falcons banded at Great River Energy

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Two young peregrine falcons that hatched in a nesting box at Great River Energy (GRE) in Elk River have been banded.

Brenda Geisler showed one of the newly banded peregrines to people gathered at Great River Energy. From left to right are Donald Hoskyns, William Hoskyns and Marilyn Hoskyns.

A bucket truck lifted Amy Ries of the Raptor Resource Project and Brenda Geisler of GRE to the nesting box Monday morning, June 25. The nesting box is on the power plant, 110 feet above the ground.

Ries and Geisler picked up the young birds, called eyasses, and brought them to the ground. They were banded before a crowd of people and then returned to their nesting box.

Both of the young falcons are female and they are healthy.

Geisler named them Larissa and Scout. Larissa is named after one of her co-workers. Scout is after the International Harvester truck.

The peregrines hatched on June 3 and 4. A third egg in the nest did not hatch.

This is the sixth year peregrines have been nesting at GRE. The adults are new to the site. The male falcon’s name is Sawatzke. He was banded at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant near Monticello in 2009. The female is unbanded, which is somewhat uncommon. Ries said there are more banded adult peregrines than unbanded.

Like the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon has made a comeback after populations crashed due largely to the pesticide DDT, which was banned in 1973. The DDT caused peregrines to lay eggs with thin shells, so the eggs cracked when the birds incubated them and the embroys would die, Ries said.

Birds like peregrines were particularly hard hit by DDT because they are carnivores at the top of the food chain, she said.

By 1966, no peregrines were left east of the Mississippi River.

“They were nearly extinct and they were returned by the efforts of falconers and conservationists who bred a captive population and then released that population (into the wild),” she said.

Peregrine falcons were taken off the federal endangered species list in 1999. They continue to be considered a threatened species in Minnesota.

For more information go to www.raptorresource.org.

To view the GRE  nest via a “bird cam,” click here.

About peregrine falcons

•In the past, peregrine falcons in Minnesota nested on cliff ledges along rivers or lakes. Presently, they nest primarily on buildings and bridges in urban settings and use historic eyries on cliffs along Lake Superior and the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota.

•Typically two to three eggs are laid. Hatchlings usually fledge at 42 days, but they remain with their parents for several more weeks while learning to fly and hunt.

•Peregrine falcons feed mainly on birds, which are caught and killed in mid-air.

•They have been clocked at speeds over 200 mph while in pursuit of prey.

Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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