Chick Banding Marks Latest Chapter In Peregrine Falcon Restoration

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By Sam Drysdale
State House News Service

State officials attached identifying bands to three recently hatched peregrine falcon chicks on Wednesday, as part of the state’s ongoing efforts to restore the species of special concern in Massachusetts.

State officials describe the peregrine falcon as the fastest bird on earth, capable of diving from great heights at speeds of up to 240 miles per hour.

Prior to the use of a pesticide known formally as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and more commonly as DDT, there were 375 nesting pairs of peregrine falcons in the eastern United States. The last wild pair was found in 1955 on Monument Mountain, which straddles Great Barrington and Stockbridge in the Berkshires. By the 1960s, none of the birds remained in Massachusetts, according to MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

Due to restoration efforts and the federal government’s banning DDT, the species has rebounded and there are now nearly 50 territorial pairs of peregrine falcons across the Bay State.

The state Department of Fish and Game and its division MassWildlife attach identifying leg bands to the birds when they are young, which provides MassWildlife biologists with information about their movements, lifespan, and injury recovery. The three falcon chicks banded on Wednesday, May 28 are part of a larger effort to identify these birds.

Historically, peregrine falcons used to nest on natural cliffs, but today they also nest on bridges and tall buildings.

The state Department of Transportation installed nest boxes across the state, including at the Gillis Bridge in Newburyport — where Wednesday’s event took place — as well as bridges in Charlestown, Fall River, West Springfield, and Northampton, and buildings in Amherst, Boston, Chelsea, Cambridge, Watertown, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, and Worcester.

In 1984 and 1985, MassWildlife released falcons in downtown Boston, leading to the first nest in more than 20 years in 1987 on the Custom House tower in Boston. This year marks the 38th year of peregrine falcon restoration efforts in Massachusetts, and over 1,077 wild-hatched chicks born in nests around the state.

Biologists banded the three falcon chicks at the Gillis Bridge in Newburyport at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 28.


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