Peregrine Falcons

The Peregrine Falcon is one of the fastest and most thrilling birds of prey on the planet earth. This remarkable bird has long been known for its speed, grace, and stunning aerial skills.  The Peregrine reaches over 235 mph when in a steep hunting dive!

The recovery of the Peregrine Falcon from the brink of breeding extinction in the United States is a remarkable story of extraordinary teamwork.  Peregrine Falcons are listed as an endangered species in the state of Massachusetts.

By carefully observing, monitoring, and photo-documenting this pair of nesting Peregrine Falcons in the Ayer Mills Clock Tower in Lawrence, the objective is to add more to the local and regional body of knowledge about the daily behavior of these birds.

You are actively invited and strongly encouraged to share questions, comments, feedback, and most importantly your own observations.

Peregrine Falcons – 2015 Update: Mass Wildlife

According to Mass wildlife officials, 2015 was a big year in Massachusetts for the fastest bird on Earth.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife said it tracked 33 territorial pairs of peregrine falcons in the state that resulted in 54 chicks during 2015. The department called it an “incredible success story.”

Background on Lawrence Peregrines:

According to Christian Martin at NH Audubon, the male in Lawrence was born in Manchester, NH in 2001 to a first year nesting pair.  There were four chicks in the brood and he was the runt of the brood.  The big question at that time was will this runt of the brood make it to adult life?

As of February 2012, the runt of the 2001 brood is the only one to survive from the original group.  This Peregrine Falcon has a very healthy breeding history with a history starting in 2003 at this site in Lawrence.

His leg bands are 6*/4* black over green. The “*” indicates that the numbers are not vertical, but are laid over on their sides on the band. The service number on his other leg band is 2206-59866.

According to Tom French at Mass Wildlife, V/5 was the original nesting female in Lawrence.  When this pair of Peregrines first nested in 2003, she was unbanded, but she was aggressive enough that when she made a pass at one of the Mass Wildlife officials he was able to secure her, hold her, and then band her.  The female in Lawrence is banded V over 5 (V/5), black over green, and the silver service band on her other leg is 987-98049.

This female was caught by hand at her nest on June 4, 2003. So, she was banded as a two year old adult, so we do not know where she was born. She is coming up on 14 years old in May. Since 2003, she has raised at least 31 chicks (17 males & 14 females) to fledging. Since her nest site in 2005 was not located, she probably raised a few more. In the 11 years where her nest site was known, she has never failed to fledge at least one chick.

There is no known data about where she originally came from, but she would have been born in 2001.   Peregrine Falcons often make it to about 10 years old, but not much older. The oldest known bird in the eastern Mass. area was a male at the Customs House in Boston that lived to be 19.

Update from Jan. 23, 2015: Over the past week the adult female in Lawrence (V/5) has been on the ground twice. On Monday, January 5th she was found in a residential backyard about ¾ mile west of the clock tower. A toe on her left foot was scrapped and broken. She was picked up late in the day by the ACO and transferred to an experienced local falconer to hold. The next day when I spoke with the falconer, It sounded like she had probably struck something but had shaken it off. She was strong, alert, feisty, and in good weight with no evidence of any wing injuries. She eagerly ate a homing pigeon. However, a winter storm had begun, so I had her held over a second night and released the next morning. She flew from the ground right back up to the clock tower.

It seemed like a good release, but yesterday I learned that she had been found on the ground again, so she was taken to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic. The cause of her problems is still not clear, but I will let you know when there is more news.

Now, it appears as though she may have a fracture in her shoulder, this will take time to heal. She has pain medication on board and has a great appetite.  Sadly, V/5 was not able to be returned to the Lawrence Clock Tower to be reunited with her long-time mate.

In late January 2015, a new unbanded female appeared in Lawrence and spent a considerable amount of time with the long-time male.  Initially they were seen together around the Verizon Cell Tower.  Then they moved their activities over to the Ayer Mill Clock Tower. They fully engaged in a range of normal courtship activities.  The first egg of this new breeding season was laid on April 6th, 2015.

Go to Peregrine links page for lots more information on Peregrine Falcons!

Caretakers of Lawrence Peregrines

According to the October 2008 issue of Bird Observer, the late Joe Hogan observed a pair of Peregrines flying, hunting, and exchanging food in Lawrence.  This courting activity culminated in 2003, with their nesting for the first time in Lawrence.  The pair successfully raised young again in 2004, but Joe passed away earlier that spring not knowing how prodcutive the pair would be over time.

In 2008 MassWildlife and New Balance worked together to install a nest box on the west side of the Ayer Mill Clock Tower.  This was an exceptionally safe and well protected location with corporate security in place around the clock tower 24/7/365!   On May 23, 2008, a group including local hawk watchers, along with Tom French from MassWildlife went to band the chicks.  This pair of peregrines continue their annual breeding activities with great success.  The staff at New Balance deserves great credit for their full support and active involvment as well as Charlie Waites who has been caring for the Ayer Mill Clock Tower for over 20 years!

2017 Key Dates

Eggs laid in Clock Tower: April 6 – 10

Estimated incubation period: 30-33 days

Eggs hatched: May 11-14

Banding date:

Fledge dates: June 18, 19, ??, ??

 

2016 Key Dates

Eggs laid in Clock Tower: March 21, 23, 25, 28

Estimated incubation period: 30-33 days

Eggs hatched: April 28 – 30

Banding date: Wednesday, May 25  (leg band numbers: 13/BE, 14/BE, 85/BS, 86/BS)

Fledge dates: June 6, 8, 9, 10

 

2015 Key Dates

Eggs laid in Clock Tower: April 6, 8, 10, 13

Estimated incubation period: 30-33 days

Eggs hatched: first of 3 eggs hatched May 14 (one egg disappeared!)

Banding date: Tuesday, May 28

Fledge dates: June 8-12

 

2014 Key Dates

Eggs laid in Clock Tower: March 21, 23, 25, 26

Estimated incubation period: 30-33 days

Eggs hatched: 3 eggs hatched form May 1-4

Banding date:  Tuesday, May 27

Fledge dates: June 8-12

 

2013 Key Dates

Eggs laid in 250 Canal St. complex: end of March

Eggs hatched: 4 hatched end of April

Banding: early May

Fledge: first week of June ending with 93/AD fledging on June 9th.

 

2012 Key Dates

Eggs laid: March 19, 20, 22, 24

Eggs hatched: 2 eggs hatched around April 24 and 25;  2 eggs remained unhatched

Banding: week of May 14  (Male – 92/AB black over green, 2206-81867; Female – 31/AE black over green, 1947-02317 )

Fledge: Sunday, June 3 for male; Tuesday, June 5 for female

 

 

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