Contact Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
With hatching of Wilmington’s peregrine chicks, DNREC’s
Falcon Cam offers bird’s-eye view into family dynamics
WILMINGTON (April 27, 2012) – DNREC's Division of Fish and Wildlife is pleased to announce that CJ and Red Girl, the Wilmington peregrine falcon pair starring on DNREC’s Falcon Cam, have hatched four of their five eggs through Friday from this year’s clutch. Since the hatch began on April 20, the nest box on the 19th floor of the city’s Brandywine Building has been bustling, with the new parents feeding their hungry chicks.
Veteran falcon watcher and wildlife photographer Kim Steininger has high hopes for the new chicks. “Watching the webcam provides a great opportunity to see into the lives of our city falcons. Now that the chicks have hatched, the fun really begins while we watch the daily changes and interaction with the adults,” Steininger said.
Division of Fish & Wildlife biologist Anthony Gonzon agreed, inviting viewers to check out the Wilmington pair and their brood at www.dnrec.delaware.gov. “Although Red Girl will spend much of her time keeping the chicks covered for the next two weeks, you may be rewarded with a feeding or a changing of the guard. Look for the fuzzy little white chicks to grow quickly, keeping CJ hopping to provide meals,” Gonzon said.
Dedicated Falcon Cam watchers know that the mating pair, CJ (for “Caesar Jr.” after his sire who also resided in the same nest box) and Red Girl (as she was called for red tape placed over a leg-band that distinguished her from siblings soon after her birth atop the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg, Pa.), began courting in February, beginning the next chapter in the 20-year story of Wilmington’s resident falcons.
Historically, peregrine falcons nested on cliffs, but today these swift and adaptable raptors often nest on ledges in non-natural structures such as bridges and tall buildings. Wilmington’s first urban falcons arrived in 1992, when a pair took up residence at the Brandywine Building, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided a nest box to give them a better chance at raising young. “Since 2002, the Wilmington falcons have raised young nearly every year, producing two to five chicks each season except when nesting attempts failed or were not attempted,” Gonzon said.
In 2010, under a partnership between the DuPont Clear into the Future Program, the Delmarva Ornithological Society, DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Buccini-Pollin Group, the Wilmington falcons found online fame when a web cam was installed in their nest box to give the public a glimpse into their daily lives.
“That first season ended with loads of drama in the nest box, including the arrival of a new falcon pair taking up residence and the failure of a four-egg clutch,” Gonzon said. “In 2011, the pair hatched five eggs – two females and three males. Two of the males successfully fledged in Wilmington. Following falls to the street, the two females were rescued and sent to West Virginia to support ongoing recovery efforts at New River Gorge. Unfortunately, the third male met his end on the busy city streets.”
Gonzon noted that CJ and Red Girl are one of four pairs that now call Delaware home, and hopes are high that those numbers will grow as the peregrine falcon continues its recovery from the brink of extinction. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, the peregrine falcon population in the eastern United States was decimated. Pesticides including DDT caused eggshell thinning and reduced the falcons’ ability to reproduce. Indiscriminate shooting, along with egg collection, hastened the peregrines’ population decline. By the mid-1960s, the species had been all but eliminated from its eastern range. The peregrine falcon was listed as endangered in 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 – predecessor to the federal Endangered Species Act. DDT was banned in 1972 and recovery efforts began as captive-reared falcons were released in an effort to repopulate the eastern states. These efforts were so successful that the peregrine falcon was removed from the list of endangered species in 1999.
“The next few weeks, as the chicks grow, the Falcon Cam will offer a fantastic opportunity to see these magnificent avian predators up close in their own home – nature’s own must-see TV,” Gonzon said. “So tune in today and don’t miss it.”
You can view the Falcon Cam with updates and information about the falcons on the DNREC website at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Admin/Pages/Peregrine_Falcon_Cam.aspx.
Vol. 42, No. 157