2015 NH Peregrine Breeding Season Results by Chris Martin

Posted on August 27, 2015

This spring marked the 35th breeding season in the post-DDT recovery era for New Hampshire’s peregrine falcons. Ever since a pair was first discovered nesting in Franconia Notch back in 1981,

Rumney Summit PEFA 6-16-15d. Photo by by Adam Gravel.

NH Audubon Senior Biologist Chris Martin with 22-day old peregrine in Rumney, NH. Photo by Adam Gravel/Stantec.

our state’s peregrine population — once classified as federally endangered, currently still listed as state-threatened — has been slowly rebounding. The Granite State’s peregrines are now part of a thriving regional population of both rural and urban-nesting pairs.

In 2015, NH Audubon staff and volunteer falcon observers confirmed a total of 20 occupied territories in NH, down from a record-high 23 territories we documented in 2014. We did not find any immature-plumage (1-yr old) birds as members of NH breeding pairs this year. We confirmed incubation of eggs by 16 (80%) of the state’s 20 pairs. Of this year’s 16 incubating pairs, 12 (75%) were successful in fledging at least one young. The 12 successful nests are also down from a record-high 14 in 2014. A total of 31 young fledged in 2015, an average of 1.94 young fledged per nesting pair, which is above the state’s 34-year average of 1.65 fledged per nesting pair, and the third highest fledging total we’ve recorded in the post-DDT era.

Two NH nest sites (Brady-Sullivan in Manchester, Peaked Mtn in Piermont) fledged 4 young in 2015. Unexpectedly, nearly one-third (10 of 31) of the state’s fledglings came from urban nest sites in the Merrimack River valley in 2015, including 3 in Concord, 4 in Manchester, and 3 in Nashua. We also documented a new territory at Mascot Pond in Gorham. Diamond Peaks in the 2nd College Grant was inactive in 2015 after fledging young for the first time in the post-DDT era in 2014. NH also lost claim to the I-95 Bridge nest site this year when that pair chose to lay their eggs in a scrape on the Maine side of the state line in 2015. We hope they come back to NH in 2016!

In collaboration with Stantec and BioDiversity Research Institute, we continued to monitor the daily year-round movements of an adult female nesting near Newfound Lake via the lightweight solar-powered satellite transmitter fitted on her in May 2014. She spent all of last winter in a 60mi x 30mi area of eastern Pennsylvania, and returned to NH last March in a northward migration that took just 3 days. We also placed a motion-sensitive game camera near this nest during the 2015 breeding season and were rewarded with some outstanding images.

Banding Blk-grn AM 6-3-15 by Jen Nickulas

Jay Barry and Robert Vallieres (rear) banding 1 of 4 peregrines from Manchester’s Brady-Sullivan Tower. Photo by Jen Nickulas.

NH Audubon has scaled back significantly on the time-consuming and logistically complex task of accessing remote nest ledges to band falcon chicks. Seven juvenile peregrines received ID bands in 2015, including 4 from Brady-Sullivan Tower in Manchester, and 3 from Rattlesnake Mtn in Rumney. Of the 357 fledgling peregrines that have been color-banded at New Hampshire nests in the past quarter-century, a total of 86 (24%) have eventually been re-sighted (either alive or dead) and reported to us and to the federal Bird Banding Lab.

Ongoing efforts to determine the banded status of New Hampshire’s breeding adult peregrines in 2015 yielded the following results. Of 40 known individuals, the banded status was determined for 19 individuals (47%) and remained unknown for the other 21. Of the 19 birds where banded status was confirmed, 16 individuals (84%) were unbanded, while only 3 (16%) were confirmed to be banded. With the exception of an extensive banding program still underway in Massachusetts, the majority of New England’s young peregrine falcons are now fledging from nests without being handled or banded by biologists. Notable band encounters in 2015 included Nashua’s breeding male, 6-yr old “black/green 5/9”, who is a grandchild of Manchester NH’s falcons. A Manchester offspring from 2001, 14-yr old “black/green *6/*4”, continues to rule the roost in Lawrence MA. And yet another Manchester-raised bird, 3-yr old “black/green 72/AB”, is now the breeding male in Haverhill MA in a 4th floor nest first found by Steve Mirick.

Haverhill male PEFA blk-grn 72-AB 6-4-15. Photo by Steve Mirick.

“Black/green 72/AB” raised in Manchester in 2012, found nesting in 2015 in Haverhill, MA. Photo by Steve Mirick.

In a budgetary move, the USFWS suspended triennial post-delisting peregrine breeding site monitoring at selected sample sites in the eastern U.S. without conducting monitoring in 2015 (original protocol called for monitoring in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015 breeding seasons). We look forward to the USFWS publishing results from these surveys conducted since peregrines were federally delisted back in 1999.

A really big “Thank You!” goes out to all those who support ongoing peregrine falcon recovery efforts in New Hampshire, including natural resource managers, private landowners, volunteer observers, corporate partners, and rock climbers. Management activity at breeding sites is supported by a federal State Wildlife Grant to the NH Fish and Game Department Nongame Program. Additional monitoring support for two breeding sites located near the Groton Wind Farm was provided under a contract with Stantec, an international environmental consulting firm. And of course we always appreciate the generous support of NH Audubon members and other individuals.