Holts Falcons Fledge Five!

Posted on November 25, 2014


In 2014, NH Audubon staff and volunteer observers confirmed 23 occupied territories for state-listed threatened Peregrine Falcons in the Granite State. This established a new state record-high for the 34 consecutive breeding seasons in the post-DDT era. There were 22 territorial pairs and one site with only a solo bird. One territory had a mate replaced during the breeding season, and three sites had immature-plumage (1-yr old) birds as a member of the pair.

We confirmed incubation of eggs by 17 (77%) of the state’s 22 pairs. For reasons we could not identify, a higher than usual proportion (23%) of NH’s pairs were not seen incubating this year. Of 17 incubating pairs, 14 (82%) were successful in fledging at least one young. The 14 successful nests set a new post-DDT era high mark. A total of 33 young fledged in 2014, an average of 1.94 young fledged per nesting pair, above the state’s 34-year average of 1.64 fledged per nesting pair.

At Holts Ledge in Lyme, one of NH’s most productive sites over the long-run, a remarkable five young fledged in 2014. In state records that date back a third of a century, this is only the second case where a nest fledged five chicks in 323 documented nesting attempts (less than 1% of the time). The only other instance was in 2010 at the Brady-Sullivan Tower in Manchester. At opposite ends of the state, we documented the first successful fledging of peregrines from Second College Grant’s Diamond Peaks in more than half a century, and the first ever from downtown Nashua. We documented new territories at Berlin’s Mt. Forist and at Kingston’s RediMix concrete plant.

Collaborating with partners at BioDiversity Research Institute and Stantec, we successfully fitted lightweight solar-powered satellite transmitters on two nesting female peregrines (Bear Mountain in Hebron, Rattlesnake Mountain in Rumney) to learn more about peregrine home ranges and how they may interact with wind turbines on ridgetops nearby. We installed a new falcon nest box at the Christian Science Church in downtown Concord in March which unfortunately remained unused in 2014.

After more than 20 years of intensive work, NH Audubon has scaled back on banding falcon chicks on remote cliffs. Only two juvenile peregrines (Brady-Sullivan Tower and a rehabilitated fledgling from a nest on the Connecticut River) received ID bands in 2014. We also banded two adult females captured during satellite transmitter studies. Of the 350 fledgling peregrines that have been color-banded at New Hampshire nests since the early 1990s, a total of 85 (over 24%) have eventually been re-sighted (either alive or dead) and reported to us and to the federal Bird Banding Lab.

Efforts to determine the banded status of New Hampshire’s breeding peregrines in 2014 yielded the following results. Of 46 known individuals, banded status was confirmed for 29 individuals (63%) and unknown for the other 17. Of the 29 birds where banded status was determined, 21 (72%) were confirmed to be unbanded, while 8 (28%) were confirmed to be banded. Notable band encounters in 2014 included the original male at Brady-Sullivan, 14-yr old “black/green 6/7” originally from Cathedral Ledge, who broke a wing in late March and was euthanized. His mate, 9-yr old “black/green 02/Z” originally raised in Worcester MA, quickly found a new unbanded 1-yr old mate. The breeding male in Nashua, 5-yr old “black/green 5/9” originally raised at UMass-Amherst, was also seen courting a female located 10 miles away in Lowell, MA this past August. A fledgling from Manchester in 2001, 13-yr old “black/green *6/*4”, continues to rule the roost in Lawrence MA. And a 4-yr old female, “black/green A/30” from Holts Ledge, nested in downtown Charlotte, NC again in 2014.

Thanks to all who support Peregrine Falcon recovery efforts in New Hampshire, including natural resource managers and private land owners, volunteer observers and our rock climbing partners. Management activity at breeding sites is supported by a federal State Wildlife Grant to NH Fish and Game’s Nongame Program. Monitoring activity was funded in part by an anonymous gift from the NH Charitable Foundation. Additional monitoring support for two breeding sites is provided under a contract with Stantec. And of course we always appreciate the generous support of NH Audubon members and other individuals.

–Chris Martin