Dairyland Power Cooperative

Peregrine Falcon Restoration Program

History, facts, and efforts

History

Young falcons

“It is extremely gratifying to note that the first peregrine falcons to successfully fledge young in their native Mississippi River breeding range - in over 25 years - occurred at Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Alma Site!”
- Dairyland Environmental Biologist John Thiel

The remarkable success of the Peregrine Falcon Restoration Program is gratifying to everyone involved-staff at Dairyland Power Cooperative and the Raptor Resource Project and, of course, the birds themselves. Peregrine falcons were put on the Wisconsin Endangered and Threatened Species List in 1975, and with our help, these peregrines are soaring high throughout the region once again.

Dairyland’s involvement with the falcon restoration was a watershed decision for the raptors in western Wisconsin. In March 1993, Dairyland was contacted by Bob Anderson, director of the Raptor Resource Project to see if DPC would volunteer to help in recovery efforts with the peregrine falcon. Dairyland management was enthusiastic and a solid marriage, which has helped to produce many peregrine falcon chicks, began.

Bob Anderson had researched falcon activity in western Wisconsin and knew that although they migrated through the area, they had not been successful establishing nesting sites at any of their typical dwellings on the cliffs overlooking the Upper Mississippi River. Bob noticed that the raptors would visit the stacks (which are several hundred feet high) at one of Dairyland’s power plants. The plant is located in Alma, Wis., between high bluffs and the Mississippi River… the perfect spot for a falcon family. Bob speculated that the raptors might find a nest box high on one of the stacks an appealing place to call home. He was right, and a raptor neighborhood was born.

The Raptor Resource Project is a non-profit group based in Ridgeway, Iowa, working to restore the Midwest population of peregrine falcons and other raptors by breeding birds for release in the wild.

Peregrines come home

In March of 1994, the first falcon nest box was installed at a port 450 feet up the stack at our Alma Generating Station. The box was constructed by Eden Prairie, Minn., high school students as a science project.

It took some time for the falcons to set up house, but on Earth Day, 1997, a pair of peregrine falcons were sighted in the nest box on the Alma Station stack! The two birds nesting in this box, named Alma and Nelson, produced three healthy offspring during 1997.

The three chicks were brought carefully down from their home 450 feet up the stack to get U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bands. This was a banner moment for the project, as it marked the first successful wild hatch of Peregrines in Western Wisconsin in 25 years!

Along with their new jewelry, blood samples were taken to assure that they were healthy. The chicks were named Clara, Florence and Harriet, after famous women from the Civil War. The young successfully flew from the nest in late summer 1997 and learned to hunt on their own near the plant site.

Nesting box installed at the second plant site

Nesting Box

In 2001, the Alma Station nesting box was remodeled to allow for more perching space. Bob Anderson and John Thiel stand next to the new nest.

With the success of the Alma nest site, another nesting box was placed 375 feet up a stack at our Genoa, Wis., generating station. "G-3" as the plant is called, is located in the same geographical area, approximately 100 miles south of Alma on the Mississippi River. A pair of falcons nested at G-3 in 1997, however, they did not produce any chicks.

In 1998, two falcons were hatched to Scooter and George at the Genoa nesting site. Since those initial offspring, 66 falcon chicks have hatched at Dariyland’s Genoa and Alma nesting sites.

Falcon facts

Peregrine falcons migrate to the Gulf of Mexico or South America for the winter and are expected to return to our region each spring.

Courtship behavior takes place in March with egg laying occurring in early April. Hatching of the clutch of eggs (usually 3-5) normally occurs in early May with the young falcons fledging in early July. Falcons prey mostly on pigeons which are found in abundance near Dairyland’s generating stations.

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus (meaning wanderer)
Status in Wisconsin: endangered
Length: female 18-21 inches, male 15-18inches
Wingspan: female 45 inches, male 40 inches
Weight: female 32-40 ounces, male 20-25 ounces
Clutch Size: Usually 3-5 eggs
Incubation Period: 34 days
Age at fledging: 40-45 days
Identification: Crow size bird with pointed wings, blue-gray upperparts, black or blue-gray cap, black stripe below eye, white chin, buff breast barred with brown, bright yellow legs and feet. Crossbow-like silhouette while in flight.

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