Pioneering peregrines could find new homes in Upper Peninsula

Peregrine falcons, known for being high-speed hunters able to fly as fast as 200 mph, are more common than in the past. The bird had been removed from the federal endangered species list, but remains an endangered species in Michigan.

DDT and other environmental contaminants were the culprits for the drop in peregrine numbers, but the DDT ban and other conservation efforts have helped falcon numbers increase.

Some of those efforts have been nest boxes installed on tall buildings since falcons prefer to nest at such heights.

This summer, peregrine falcons at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge successfully raised three chicks, with four chicks hatched at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock. A team from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources banded the International Bridge birds on June 21 and the lift bridge chicks on June 19.

Color-coded bands attached to the legs of young birds allow scientists to track their movements, reproductive behavior and population growth to better understand the species.

One factor that might have an effect on the peregrine population in Michigan is the decommissioning of power plants. For example, the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette was decommissioned this year. That plant had a nest box that produced many chicks over the years.

Falcons also had been nesting at the now-closed Shiras Steam Plant in Marquette.

Alternative sites, such as Cohodas Hall at Northern Michigan University and a tall residential building near downtown Marquette, Snowberry Heights, have been discussed as potential spots for nest boxes.

Maybe falcons will go the natural route.

DNR wildlife biologist Karen Cleveland said that along with the decommissioning of power plants, “pioneering” peregrines have been rediscovering U.P. high spots. In fact, several new U.P. nests have been spotted on cliffs and bluffs.

Cleveland believes the U.P. will play an important part in peregrine falcon survival in Michigan.

We hope so too. These birds of prey are a special sight anywhere, and for the area to continue to be a home for them is something to be desired, whether it be through nest boxes, cliffs — or both.