Posted by: grperegrines | 01/20/2019

1/20/19: Territorial defense?

On Wednesday, January 16th, I got a report of a peregrine falcon dive-bombing a red-tailed hawk in the vicinity of the 131/196 junction over the Grand River.  Given the location, this falcon is most likely one of the Kent County Courthouse falcons, though there is no way to know for sure.  Earlier this month I caught glimpses of what I think was a falcon on the NE corner of the courthouse.  The two sightings together suggest that the falcons are both defending their nesting territory from other raptors and that they are checking out potential nest sites.  Good news for a successful breeding season.

Unfortunately, I have not received any recent reports of the falcon pair from the GVSU/Eberhard Center nest, nor have I been checking the webcam.  So, I don’t know if that pair has stayed in town and is also getting ready for breeding season.  It is early for a pair that migrated to return, especially with the severe storms that have been moving across the U.S. the last few weeks.  They should start showing up in the nest box by the end of February, with eggs at both nest sites coming in the second half of March or early April.

As always, please let me know when and where you see a peregrine falcon around downtown Grand Rapids!

Posted by: grperegrines | 09/05/2018

9/4/18: Hanging around

On Thursday and Friday of last week I saw adult peregrines perched in familiar places.  One was on a west side window ledge of the Van Andel Institute, another on the west side letters of the MSU/Secchia building, and then one in box 13 (from the North), just below the roof on the east side of the State building.  There was no sign of the juvenile, who has presumably taken off on it’s first migration.  Juveniles rarely return to the location of their birth, assuming that their parents will defend their territory and chase them away.

I have not been watching the GVSU cam regularly and rarely go through that area, but I expect that pair is also around.

Like other urban pairs, our peregrines tend to stay in this area rather than heading south.  It is thought to be due to the ready supply of prey items like pigeons and starlings that are also in cities year round.  Please continue to let me know of any falcon sightings you may have in the downtown area.

Posted by: grperegrines | 08/04/2018

8/4/18: Still in town

I’m glad I put a question mark in the title of my previous post, because the group on the Urban Bird Walk (sponsored by the Grand Rapids Public Library and Grand Rapids Audubon) saw two, possibly three, peregrines Thursday evening, Aug 2.

The first falcon noticed was an adult on the SE top corner of the MSU/Secchia building.  While we were still viewing that one, someone noticed a second peregrine on the top of 25 Michigan.  That one was moving up onto a roof ledge and then back down out of sight.  It was clearly brown in color, so this was probably the remaining female juvenile from the courthouse nest box.  We were much too far away to read leg bands of either falcon, but I’d be very surprised to find GVSU birds that close to the nest site of the Courthouse pair.  While I can’t confirm the third sighting, a few of the walkers saw a bird fly from the SW railing of Amway Grand, which is where I saw a peregrine last week.  That was most likely one of the GVSU adults.

Thanks to all of the people who joined us for the walk. I hope you enjoyed yourselves and learned a little more about the birds that call downtown their home.


Posted by: grperegrines | 07/27/2018

7//27/18: Out of town?

Reports of the peregrines have been few and far between this last month, and most have been of a single adult.  Earlier this week I walked around downtown and the only peregrine that I spotted was an adult that flew across Pearl to land on the SW corner of the Amway Grand tower.

In past years, the falcons have been scarce for much of August.  I’ve always assumed both the adults and the juveniles found a better place for the young ones to practice hunting while avoiding the heat of downtown.  With fledging occurring a few weeks earlier than usual this year, most of the peregrines seem to have disappeared earlier, too.   Hopefully the adults will be back in a month or so.  The juveniles should be on their own migration adventures, hopefully to find a territory of their own in the next year or two.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/13/2018

6/13/18: RIP 29/K

The hazards facing young falcons are many, especially in urban areas.  Monday night, 29/K, one of the female fledglings from the courthouse nest was hit by a car.  She was taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for emergency surgery, but they were not able to save her.  I don’t know any details about when and where she was hit, but at least we know why I couldn’t find her that evening.

Flying into windows and being hit by cars are two of the most common causes of death for urban peregrines.  The experts estimate that only 50% of peregrines survive to see their first birthday.

As far as I know, the other three fledglings are okay as of this morning.  The GVSU females may make the occasional visit to the nest box, but don’t need to return there to get fed.  We’ll do our best to keep track of them, but they will start venturing further and further away from the nest location.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/12/2018

6/12/18: Out and about

All four peregrine falcon chicks have officially fledged.

The male and female from the GVSU nest box have been observed flying between the Eberhard Center and the Grand Rapids Public Museum.  One spent the night in a tree along the river, having ended up on the ground by the museum last evening.  This morning she made her way back to the Eberhard Center and is expected to join her sister soon.

One of the females from the KCC nest box spent the night on a building across Ionia from the courthouse.  One of the adults was watching over her most of the evening.  The second fledgling and adult have not been seen since Sunday, possibly because they have moved to the west side of the courthouse, where it is much harder to find them.  Hopefully we’ll catch sight of them soon, as the juveniles get more proficient at flying.  I consider it hopeful that I’ve not heard any reports of dead falcons.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/10/2018

6/10/18: Courthouse fledglings, etc.

Late this afternoon I went to check on both falcon families.  I found all four of the courthouse peregrines.  The two adults were perched on the SW end of the VanAndel Institute, one on the top ledge and one on a letter below.  The two fledglings were located away from the courthouse, so each of them has taken at least one flight.  One was on top of 5 Lyon and the other on 300 Ionia, easily in sight of their parents and looking well.

I saw both of the GVSU nest adults, one perched on a cell phone repeater on Plaza Towers and the other did a fly over, heading west over the box and out of sight.  I couldn’t find either of the chicks, so I am assuming they found a safe place on the roof of the Eberhard Center not visible from the ground.  As I started to type this, one chick became visible in the nest box.  Having watched the camera for quite awhile this afternoon, I’m pretty sure it did leave at some point.  It is pretty common for the young birds to try to return to the nest box for the night, so hopefully the second chick will again return before full dark.  It not clear if either of them have attempted to fly off the building.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/07/2018

6/7/18: Update on both sets of chicks

Those of you who watch the GVSU nest cam know that the male chick was out of the box for most of today.  He appeared back in the box just before 6:30pm.  Based on observations by those at GVSU, he was probably somewhere on the roof where they couldn’t see him.  It is likely he didn’t take a true first flight, but hopped/jumped/flapped his way from one place to another.  It is a great sign that he was able to make his own way back into the box.  His sister made her way out to the front bar a couple of times, but was otherwise in the box all day.  She likes the front corner under the camera where we can’t see her.  My best guess is that the male might take a true flight tomorrow, with his sister following on Saturday.

The two chicks in the Kent County Courthouse box were standing at the front of the box when I observed them about 7pm this evening.  One adult was perched nearby.  Looking at their plumage, the two females look to be a day or so younger than the female in the GVSU box, so their first flights might be Sunday.  That box is situated differently, so sometimes the chicks drop down to the roof level and run around down there, hopping/jumping/flapping up to the roof ledge periodically for a day or two before their first flight.

As these four are about to find out, landing is a lot harder than taking off, so it isn’t unusual for a fledgling to end up on the ground.  If it can make its way up off the ground and isn’t too close to a road, it will probably be okay.  If its injured or in harm’s way, the best thing to do is to contact the security or maintenance people at either GVSU or KCC.  If that isn’t possible, send me an email and I can alert the proper people.

I’d appreciate any observations you have of these falcons, even if there isn’t an emergency situation.  It’s pretty easy for them to end up in strange places as they learn to fly, so having more eyes watching helps us keep track of them.

p.s. I expect the GVSU cam will be moved to show us more of the front bar soon.

Posted by: grperegrines | 06/05/2018

6/5/18: Band information

The information for the bands placed on all four chicks by the DNR is below.

GVSU Eberhard Center:

Female – Black 27 over Blue K on left leg, silver USFW band on right leg

Male – Black 31 over Blue C on left leg, silver USFW band on right leg

Kent County Courthouse:

Female #1 – Black 28 over Blue K on left leg, silver USFW band on right leg

Female #2 – Black 29 over Blue K on left leg, silver USFW band on right leg

Note that the numbers on the USFW bands are unreadable unless you are holding the bird, so I didn’t list them here.

It’s nice that we’ll be able to tell the male by either the number or the letter on his left leg, but we’ll have to see both digits of the top number to tell the females apart.  Size will also help, as males are generally about 1/3 smaller than the females.

When will they finally take off?  I’d say probably Thursday at the earliest, but I’ve been surprised before!


Posted by: grperegrines | 06/03/2018

6/3/18: Fledging likely this week

The chicks are getting big and sporting less and less downy white every day.  Fledging (taking their first flight) commonly occurs between 35 and 40 days after hatching, with males generally launching a day or two younger than females.  In my experience, chicks tend not to truly fledge until the only visible down is on the top of their heads with maybe a wisp or two elsewhere.  So, I think the chicks in both nests are still several days away from taking flight.  They might get bold enough to hop out to the front ledge, which is very scary for the GVSU chicks because it’s a 10 floor drop to the ground from there, and the river is close.  The courthouse nest box is on an inner section, so chicks can land one floor down onto the main roof floor and run around safely.

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