Delaware peregrine falcon fledglings survive tumble

 The rescued juvenile falcons (photo courtesy of Craig Koppie)

The rescued juvenile falcons (photo courtesy of Craig Koppie)

Delaware’s peregrine falcon population came very close to losing two of its little ones, after a pair of fledglings, attempting their first flights, crash landed on the roadway of the St. Georges Bridge over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. 

As is often the case, young birds die after such a fall, but the state says witnesses who saw and reported the falcons on the roadway triggered a speedy rescue by Delaware’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement agents.

After a few days of observation, the nationally-renowned Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark reported both falcons were not only in good shape, but they could also be returned to their nest atop the bridge.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raptor biologist Craig Koppie attempted to reintroduce the two female fledglings to their parents last Wednesday. Because the actual nest site is inaccessible to people, Koppie says returning young at their age is tough and requires a plan so the fledglings don’t fall to the ground again.  

“To minimize risk of the birds immediately taking flight before they’re ready, I immersed the young falcons in water to soak their body and flight feathers. This makes the fledglings heavy and wet, and they will not have the desire to bolt once released. I also placed food (quail) along the catwalk before taking them to the top of the bridge so the young falcons would concentrate on eating while they were drying off,” Koppie said. 

Thunderstorms and strong winds followed the successful release, but Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Anthony Gonzon who climbed the St. Georges Bridge early Friday morning in the storms’ aftermath laid eyes on both fledglings with their parents, elated that “Delaware’s peregrine falcon population had grown by two!”

“We work hard to reunite young birds of prey with their parents or a foster family whenever we can,” said Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research. “Young birds of prey have so much to learn from the adults – how to hunt, how to behave socially, where to roost, etc. We are delighted that these two falcons can continue to grow up in the wild.”

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