The last several months marked the 32nd breeding season in the post-DDT recovery era for New Hampshire’s peregrine falcons. Ever since a pioneering pair was first found nesting in Franconia Notch in 1981, our state’s peregrine population – once classified as federally endangered, now only state-threatened – has been rebounding at a very gradual pace. And more than three decades after a low in the 1950s-70s, many seemingly suitable nesting sites in the Granite State still lack breeding pairs. But despite that, 2012’s total of 20 occupied territories ties a recovery era state record-high. Progress has been slow, but it continues!
In 2012, NH Audubon staff and volunteer observers confirmed incubation at 17 (85%) of the state’s 20 territories, matching a state record-high first set in 2007. But of this year’s 17 incubating pairs, less than 50% were successful in fledging at least one young. After five consecutive breeding seasons (2007-2011) with 12 or 13 successful nests annually, New Hampshire had only eight productive nests in 2012. On the other hand, the 22 young fledged from those eight successful nests represents a healthy average of 2.75 young per successful nest. The average of 1.29 young fledged per nesting pair this season was below the 30-year average of 1.64 fledged per nesting pair in the state.
Biologists and cooperators accessed four New Hampshire peregrine eyries in 2012, banding a total of six nestlings. Overall, out of 346 fledgling peregrine falcons that have been color-banded at New Hampshire nests since the early 1990s, 82 birds (23.7%) have eventually been resighted (either alive or dead) and reported to us and to the federal Bird Banding Lab. Efforts to identify banded peregrines at New Hampshire’s breeding sites in 2012 yielded the following results: 39 individuals (19 pairs and 1 unpaired bird), banded status confirmed for 21 (54%) and not confirmed for 18 (46%). Of the 21 individuals where banded status was known, 16 (76%) were confirmed to not be wearing ID bands, while five (24%) were confirmed to be color-banded.
An exciting aspect of the 2012 breeding season was news of encounters with banded peregrines raised at New Hampshire nest sites in past seasons. Most remarkable of all was a May 2012 report of black/green A/30, a 2-year old female from Holts Ledge in Lyme, NH. She bred successfully in 2012 on a 24-story condominium building in Sandy Springs, GA (an Atlanta suburb), an astounding 950 miles from where she was raised. We also received word in June of the survival of black/green D/2, a 9-year old female raised at Devils Slide in Stark, NH in 2003, who showed up at Brookfield Renewable Power in Berlin, NH, a full six years after her successful rehabilitation by Maria Colby at the Wings of Dawn Center back in 2006.
We continue to be grateful for all those who support our efforts on behalf of peregrine falcons in New Hampshire, from public resource managers and private land owners, to volunteer observers and our rock climbing partners. Management activity at breeding sites is supported by a federal State Wildlife Grant to the NH Fish and Game Department Nongame Program. We receive additional support to monitor a subset of sites from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and we always appreciate the generous support of NH Audubon members and other individuals.