Trail Closures: Peregrine Falcon Nesting
Precipice Cliff, Valley Cove, and Jordan Cliff areas are closed to all public entry until further notice for peregrine falcon nesting season. More »
Cultural Connections programs rescheduled for 7/16/2014 due to weather
Ash Log Pounding demo will take place today 11 am-3 pm at the Abbe Museum downtown (26 Mount Desert St, Bar Harbor). The Burnurwurbskek Singers have been rescheduled to perform on Cadillac Summit next Wed, July 23 at 11 am.
Trail Closure: Gorge Path weekdays, 7 am - 4 pm
The section of the Gorge Path between the Hemlock Path intersection and the A. Murray Young Trail intersection is closed until rehabilitation work is completed. The closure will be in effect Mondays through Fridays only, from 7 am to 4 pm.
Peregrine Watch Update Archive - 2007
July 31, 2007. Peregrine watch 2007 is winding to an end. The last day rangers and volunteers will be staffing the Precipice is Tuesday, July 31. This is typically when we end each year, although spotting the falcons this summer has become more of a challenge than usual. We have only been seeing the male for very short intervals, or he is not seen at all. But this happens every year at this time, whether there are chicks or not. The chicks would have fledged by now and would have been preparing for their first solo journey away from home. The adults would no longer need to stay with the chicks and would be laying low due to the heat, as well as molting and growing in the feathers they will need for their long migration south.
Where our peregrines go on their southward journey is not well known. The subspecies on the east coast was historically known to migrate to South or Central America, but this subspecies went extinct due to the pesticide DDT. The peregrines here today are a created subspecies, thus they do not have “somewhere” programmed in their genes to go. One of our birds born in Acadia was found washed up in Cuba, so we know they can go that far. However, some may just spend the winter in New Jersey, where it is a little warmer and there is an abundant pigeon supply. Peregrines have been seen in the park during the winter, but whether or not these are our peregrines has not been determined. They could just be birds that have migrated to Acadia from farther north, where this is like Florida to them. We do know that our Precipice pair has been sticking around later and later each year, possibly to defend their very successful territory. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues since they failed to produce young this year.
Our peregrines know it is time to leave their home not because of colder temperatures, but because of the shrinking hours of daylight. Smaller birds such as songbirds will migrate at night, while raptors such as our peregrines will migrate during the day. As the sun warms up the surface, heat rises up in pockets called thermals. Most birds of prey will soar up with these thermals, which cool off and dissipate as they rise. The bird will then glide over to the next thermal. By gliding instead of flapping, they are conserving the energy they need for their long-distance flight. Large numbers of raptors are often seen riding these thermals together during the fall, not because they want company, but because they are all following the same migration route. Birds often use the same landmarks to guide their journey south, and here on the east coast they use, well, the east coast! The coastline serves as the expressway of the skies in the fall, as it keeps our raptors from either drifting out over the ocean or from getting lost inland.
Thermals tend to rise up along mountain sides, and many hawkwatchers journey to the mountains to see this impressive gathering of thousands of raptors. Here in Acadia migrating hawks can be seen from Cadillac Mountain, and on Tuesday, August 21, our official HawkWatch program begins, staffed by none other than those friendly faces from the Peregrine Watch. So join us in August atop Cadillac (as weather permits) to wish our raptors a safe journey south. We can only hope that when the winter ice melts and the chickadee again sings, our peregrines will safely return back to their homes here in Acadia National Park.
July 25, 2007. As July is speeding by, it is becoming more and more of a challenge to view our peregrine falcons. Some days the male sits on the cliff for hours at a time after he gets his morning breakfast, and some days he does not show up at all. And we have not seen his mate in weeks. Either the female is taking an extended summer vacation, or she has taken leave of her mate and territory. We will most likely not know what has happened until next breeding season. Since she and her mate did not produce young this year, they could “divorce” with only one getting to “keep the house” and remain at the Precipice. The male seems to be sticking to his territory right now, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the spring. It is believed that the males will stick around the territory to keep prospective cliff hunters (other peregrines) away.
Indeed, it will be interesting to see what happens to all our park’s peregrines come the next breeding season. Since they all failed, they may in fact all get “divorced” and end up with new mates this coming spring. Hopefully next time around, however, we will not get any nor’easters in April that dump a foot and a half of snow and then half a foot of rain. We have recently found out that these unusual storms that occurred this past spring did a number on not just our peregrines, but all of those in eastern Maine. None of the peregrine pairs in the eastern part of the state had young this year. Luckily the western peregrines made up for these failures, and 14 chicks were fledged from eight aeries. Only one pair failed in the west.
Peregrines nest on east-facing cliffs, where the sun warms the cliff in the morning and cools down as the afternoon sun dips behind it. This direction is typically also safe from spring and summer storms, as most of our weather comes from the west during those seasons. In most years, they do not have to worry about northeastern storms, which typically only occur in fall and winter and pound the east-facing cliffs. There is little doubt that it was the unusually late storms that produced the eastern nest failures this year. The cliffs in eastern Maine most likely got hit harder because of the intensity and moisture picked from the ocean, whereas western Maine was a bit more protected. And while the parents will sit on the eggs for a couple days during bad weather, they eventually have to get up to eat and stretch their legs. When each mom or dad peregrine in the east got off their nest this past April, snow and rain probably rushed onto the eggs, sealing their fate.
We are hopeful that next year our four pairs of peregrines, whether or not they are the exact same pairs, will return and have chicks (after all, they need to make up for this year!). Hopefully those late nor’easters were just strange weather events, and not part of a changing global weather pattern, but only time will tell. In the meantime, stop by the Precipice anytime between 9 a.m. and noon (weather permitting) for your last chances to see the Precipice peregrines with our helpful and knowledgeable staff. We will only be there for a little while longer, as the summer turns into fall and the peregrines prepare for their migration. Check in next week for a special (and final) migration edition of the View from the Aerie.
July 17, 2007. The Precipice continues to bustle with visitor activity, but unfortunately not with much peregrine activity. Once again our male has been out and about in the late morning, but the female has not been around in about a week. Two days went by without seeing any peregrines at all. We now get excited when any bird flies in front of the cliff, be it a herring gull or a turkey vulture. We have also seen some uncommon visitors to the Precipice, including a red-tailed hawk and an indigo bunting. But the question I know is on everyone’s mind, is where are the peregrines?
The word peregrine literally means wanderer, and that is exactly what they do. They can wander for miles in search of food, sometimes taking a day trip or possibly even a weekend vacation. The adults can search from 9 to 27 miles from their aerie for food, but will usually hunt an average of about two square miles from their aerie. They will usually wander the farthest, with estimates ranging from 135 to 580 square miles, when food supplies are at their lowest density. To give you an idea of how vast this area is, compare it to the usual territory of the Precipice peregrines. They have been seen approximately from the College of the Atlantic, south past Cadillac Mountain to Otter Point, and east to the coast of MDI. This is approximately 13 square miles of territory without including Frenchman Bay where they are occasionally seen. Today, however, since our aeries have failed, our childless peregrines can go as far as their wings can carry them.
Unfortunately there is no way for us to know exactly where and how far our peregrines go. They do not have the fancy radio telemetry devices that some peregrines sport. They instead wear bracelets, or bands, around their ankles. When a bird is banded they get a shiny silver band with their official number assigned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They also get a colored band on their other leg, which makes reading it easier for the observer. Here in Maine, they get a band with a black stripe over a green stripe, with a letter on each stripe. If you get close enough to read the letters, it would tell you when and where that bird was banded. Unfortunately most falcons do not let anyone get close enough to read those bands, so we do not really know where they go unless they are injured or die along the way.
Here in Acadia we attempt to band peregrines when they are chicks, but that does not always happen. We can only band them in a 3-4 day window when the chicks are around 22 days old. Their legs have to be fully grown, but they cannot be too old or else they may jump off the cliff when the climber rappels down to them. Furthermore, only a couple biologists in the entire northeast region have a permit to band an endangered species, and as you can imagine they are quite busy. It gets tricky trying to coordinating their schedule with a climber’s schedule, then with the chicks’ schedule, and then with the weather. Thus, banding does not always happen.
Despite the difficulty of reading bands, we have had some returns on our banded chicks. One had started a family on a cliff in Vermont and one in New Hampshire, one had moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and one was found injured last year in Washington, D.C. Another was found washed up in Cuba, a distance they can travel when they migrate. But where our Precipice peregrines go during the day is something we may never know and is yet another one of nature’s mysteries for us to ponder. So come to the Precipice anytime between 9 a.m. and noon (weathering permitting) and ponder with us! You can learn more fascinating facts and perhaps catch a glimpse of the wanderers themselves.
July 10, 2007. As we enter into the heart of our summer season, we continue to watch our Precipice pair as they go about their daily routines. The male has been around much more than the female this week, and visitors have been able to get some great views of him as he sits posed for us on the cliff. One of the reasons we are seeing more of him may be because he is a better hunter than the female. He probably successfully hunts in the morning, as he is a usually sitting contently on the cliff when we arrive. The female did return to the cliff on Saturday with some of her breakfast, and visitors watched as she ripped up her meal and ate, with feathers flying! It looked as though she had some type of song bird, which of course was only an appetizer. She flew off almost immediately after she had finished, probably still hungry and ready to find a real breakfast.
Since the pair has no chicks this season, the only thing they really need to do is hunt for their food. And these guys hunt a lot. The expression that one “eats like a bird” is completely misleading—birds eat a lot of food! Our female peregrine needs about a pigeon-sized meal a day, while our male, who is smaller, needs about a jay-sized meal a day. This amount of food is equivalent to about half of the peregrines’ body weight. That would be like a 150-pound person eating a 75-pound hamburger a day! Birds must eat all this food because flying is an extremely energetically expensive activity, and they need plenty of fuel to keep their metabolic fires burning. It takes lots of heart, lung, and muscle power to get in the air, and once there they must maneuver not just front to back and side to side like us, but in every other direction in space as well. And they are doing this often at extreme altitudes, where the air is thinner and there is less oxygen.
To supply the fuel for their well-adapted flights, all birds have special ways to get that fuel. The peregrine’s specialty is capturing live birds in mid-air. Peregrines are perhaps the most skilled (or at least the most impressive) of all the avian hunters. Soaring thousands of feet above the ground, they use their incredible eyesight (which is about 10 times our own) to key in on a weak bird below. Falling at speeds of 100 to 200 miles per hour, the fastest bird in the world tucks in its wings making a stoop, which resembles a bullet falling from the sky. At the last second the raptor pulls up and heads at their prey feet first, making an open fist with their talons, striking and stunning the bird. Triumphant, the falcon snatches the bird from the air and returns to its cliff to feast. Whether the strike killed the bird or not, the falcon always makes sure the job is done and severs the vertebrae before indulging, often removing the head entirely. They then enjoy their hard-earned meal.
If you stop at the Precipice anytime between 9 a.m. and noon daily (weather permitting) perhaps you will be one of the lucky ones to witness this incredible raptor as it maneuvers through the sky or stoops for its prey. You can also try to catch a glimpse of the other peregrines in the park if you hike Jordan Cliffs or the Flying Mountain Trail. People who have been hiking these newly opened trails have reported seeing and hearing the peregrines. So if you are up there and hear a shrill "reeek reeek reeek" and see something wiz by, know you have just been graced by the presence of the fastest and fiercest bird in the world, the peregrine falcon.
July 4, 2007. As of Wednesday, June 27, all nesting attempts made by peregrine falcons in Acadia National Park were declared to have failed. After hundreds of hours of observations, the park biologist officially determined that all four pairs of peregrines failed in their first and second nesting attempts. This is the first time in 17 years that there have been no chicks fledged in Acadia National Park. There will be no little puff balls to observe, no speckled brown juveniles to watch as they learn to fly and hunt, no new generation of peregrines to go out and find their own home and start their own peregrine families.
Certainly the historic failures of this year will have some sort of impact on the peregrine population. If our pairs, who always successfully fledge young (or at least one pair does), failed this year, we have to wonder how many other pairs in Maine and in the Northeast have also failed. There are approximately 18 pairs in Maine, and last year only 11 pairs nested and 9 pairs fledged chicks, with about 20% of those pairs being from Acadia! Currently, we know of one pair that successfully produced one female on an aerie in Portland. However, no one is routinely monitoring the other sites in the state this year, so we will not know how the others did for some time, if ever.
Now that the peregrines are officially done nesting, the northern section of the Flying Mountain Trail and the Jordan Cliffs trail were re-opened on June 28. The Precipice and East Face Trails will remain closed due to earthquake damage from last fall. Our trail crew assessed the damage on Thursday, and it is extensive. Those that wish to hike the Precipice Trail are going to have to wait until at least late this season, and even that is a bit optimistic.
While trail crew began clearing some brush on the Precipice on Thursday, our male and female peregrine were out on the cliff yelling at them, probably saying something along the lines of, “What are you doing in my house! Get out!” They had not seen any people on their cliff in almost a year, and they were probably just a little alarmed and confused. But the trail crew did not receive the welcome they would have if the peregrines had eggs or chicks. If that were the case, the falcons would have attacked our trail crew. The fact that they did not is another indication that there will be no baby peregrines this year.
Despite the sad news, the Precipice is still staffed daily 9 a.m. to noon (weather permitting) to try to catch a glimpse of the childless peregrine pair. They still show up every now and again to pose for us on the cliff face or soar effortlessly in the skies above us. Both last Monday and Tuesday the male and female were seen on the same ledge together, making clicking noises, as if they were attempting to mate again! At this point, these raptors are probably just going through the motions. They just do not know what to do without chicks! They seem to be stuck on auto-pilot: it’s summer, have chicks; it’s summer, have chicks; it’s summer, have chicks. But alas, nature has said to them, “sorry, not this year.” So, we must wait with the peregrines until next year to see those little white balls of puff. Until then, we will be watching to see what these peregrines do without chicks, a completely new set of observations for us at the Precipice!
June 26, 2007. The peregrine mystery is winding to a not so optimistic end. Activity has been abnormally slow at the Precipice this past week. For several days we observed no peregrines at all in the whole three hours of Peregrine Watch. Since there are no chicks for the parents to look after and protect, they do not have to be at home defending their territory and chicks like they would typically do this time of the year. They can go off and have fun and do whatever it is that childless peregrines do. But the Precipice is still their home, and both the male and female return back every now and again. The male was seen flying back and forth on the cliff one day last week. Our raptor ranger was then able to verify that this was in fact our old male, so we now know a new male was not responsible for the failure of the second nest attempt. At some point we are hoping to send up climbers to that second nest as well as the first, so that if there are any remains left of the eggs we will be able to send them to a lab to test for things such as pesticides and other pollutants. Last year at Jordan Cliffs we were able to do this, but the results from those tests have not been received yet.
As for the rest of the peregrines in the park, things are also not looking as good as was once thought. The peregrines at Beech Cliffs on Echo Lake failed early, apparently the result of the consecutive destructive storms in April. Following the storms, the adults, especially the female, were observed moving short distances from ledge to ledge, appearing nervous or disoriented and failing to exhibit breeding behavior or a second nesting location. This is behavior typical of a juvenile peregrine, but we know this female was not a juvenile as she had produced eggs and raised chicks at this cliff before. So why she acted that way is a mystery. The pair at Jordan Cliffs is less of a mystery. Immediately following the April storms the adults often were not observed or were not exhibiting nesting behavior. Our observations would suggest that they did not even attempt to re-nest, making it a certainty that they were not successful. Our park biologist hiked up the cliff on two occasions and made a racket to see if the peregrines would defend, but got nothing but silence. If the peregrines had chicks, you can bet our biologist would have been dive-bombed by some angry peregrine parents. And while we do not want our park biologist to get attacked by peregrines, it was still a disappointment to get no response, for that means there are no chicks at Jordan Cliffs this year. The hiking trail on the cliffs will most likely be reopened in the coming days, so keep checking for updates on the re-opening of the cliff and trail.
Valley Cove, which was originally thought to be our one successful peregrine nest this year, is no longer looking quite so hopeful. The chicks should be approximately 20 days old by now, and we should be able to see and hear them in the nesting area. Staff has not observed or heard any chicks, and the peregrine parents are not acting like parents. The female was seen sitting on the cliff face with prey in her talons, screaming her peregrine scream. As you can guess, this is not typical parenting behavior. We would expect her to be feeding the chicks that dead prey, not sitting with it screaming. Although more observation sessions may be conducted, it is likely this cliff and trail will open if the behavior by the adults continues. Re-opening notices will be posted as soon as it is positively determined the falcon nesting attempt has failed, and the trail has been determined to be suitable for visitors.
Although viewing is not the best these days, the Precipice is still the peregrine’s home, and you may be one of the lucky ones they decide to show themselves to! So stop by to learn more about these magnificent and mysterious birds of prey and find out what they are up to anytime between 9 a.m. and noon daily (weather permitting).
June 19, 2007. The mystery of the Precipice peregrines continues into this week. After the exciting copulation events of the previous weekend, there was suddenly a whole lot of nothing. The female was not her usual loud and visible self; she sat around and sat around…and sat around. She did not preen her feathers or scan for prey; she just sat. When she did fly, she was not as vocal as she usually is. This may actually be a good sign, as female peregrines get very lethargic in the days leading up to egg laying. It takes a lot of energy to produce and lay the eggs, and so it may be that she is conserving that energy and putting it into egg production.
The male, however, is not acting like a peregrine father-to-be. In previous years, the male has stayed very visible on the cliff prior to egg laying in order to defend his territory and future eggs. This is what we would expect to see at this point in their third nesting attempt, but we are not. In fact, we are not seeing much of the male at all. Several days went by without even a sign of him. That he is not protecting the cliff from large birds that pass by is quite strange and troublesome. Turkey vultures have been soaring in and out of the cliff area without harassment, whereas a month ago they would be instantly attacked.
One possibility is that we have a new male, and he may not be doing things (or does not know how to do things) the way the old male did. Peregrines, as well as most other birds, are monogamous. However, if one dies or if they are not successful in their nesting attempt, they do not hesitate to pick up a new mate. Since our male failed to give the female some chicks this season, it could spell divorce in the peregrine world. This would help explain why the second set of eggs failed. The female may have given the boot to her old mate, and a new male may have come in and killed or kicked out the old male, then destroyed the previous male’s batch of eggs. This ensures that the previous male's genes will not continue and that the female will focus on the new male and passing on his genes. Unfortunately, our experienced peregrine observers have not been able to get a good look at the elusive male to determine if this is the case.
As far as the rest of the Acadia’s peregrines go, things are not as hopeless as they seem. It appears that the pair at Valley Cove on Somes Sound may actually have produced chicks this year! Recently, our park biologist observed an adult peregrine bringing a dead bird into the nest area, which usually means they are feeding something at that nest. With more observations we hope to confirm that they do indeed have young. So there is hope yet for this year’s peregrines.
And so our peregrine saga continues, and you can get live, up-to-the-minute information and find out what these birds are up to right alongside us at the Precipice anytime between 9 a.m. and noon daily (weather permitting). Hopefully more information and another surprise await us in the next View from the Aerie!
- Sarah Stio
June 12, 2007. Last week started off like any other week at the Precipice. The male and female were out and about on their cliff, putting on their usual aerial performances for lucky visitors and escorting large birds out of their territory. On Friday, however, something unusual happened. The male and female peregrine landed on the same ledge together and disappeared behind some vegetation. Faint clucking sounds were then heard. A minute or so later they flew out of the area. About an hour later the same procedure was repeated. Believe it or not, this is textbook copulation behavior…in June!
Copulation is not something we usually report here in the View from the Aerie. This is behavior that is usually only seen at the Precipice in late March and early April. Now, here we are in June seeing these persistent peregrines making their third try. This is a truly remarkable occurrence. It is incredibly late in the season and to be honest, many of us did not think they would ever try another attempt. But the wonders of nature never cease to amaze us! Just when we think we have the peregrines figured out, they manage to surprise us.
And just in case we thought we were imagining things, copulation attempts appeared to have happened again Saturday and Sunday morning. If all goes accordingly, they will continue copulating until an egg has been laid, ensuring that at least one attempt was successful. The first egg is usually laid two to three days after a successful copulation. Additional eggs are laid after, with an approximate spacing of 48 hours between each egg. We will know when she has laid them because our very visible female will disappear and begin spending most of her time on the nest. The male will then begin to hunt for her and bring her back food, sometimes switching places with her on the nest to relieve her from her duties. This is the activity we expect if they successfully copulate and lay eggs, but only time will tell if it was successful.
Laying eggs this late in the season is exciting for all of us who want to see the pair successfully fledge young, but it may not be so wonderful for the young themselves. The life of a young peregrine is rough, and the success rate is already very low: only one out of four will survive to age two. They are on their own after the fall migration, and they no longer have mom and dad protecting them and helping them out. They must migrate to a warm, safe home by themselves and be able to find their own food and shelter. This third attempt so late in the season severely cuts short their chances to learn how to be a peregrine and survive their first winter away from home. The peregrines (as well as other birds of prey) will typically migrate in August and September, but if we see chicks born this late they will have to stick around until October. That late in the year, they may face colder temperatures and possibly a smaller food supply since their prey is migrating south as well. These factors combine to greatly lower the success rate for our potential young peregrines.
So will the peregrine pair's copulation attempts be successful? Will chicks be born at the Precipice in July? You will have to stop by the Precipice anytime between 9 a.m. and noon (weathering permitting) to find out! And of course keep checking back with the View from the Aerie.
- Sarah Stio
May 29, 2007. Hello, and welcome to the 2007 edition of View from the Aerie! My name is Sarah Stio, and I will be giving you the weekly peregrine falcon update this year. I just recently graduated from the State University of New York in Brockport with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science, and I am lucky enough to be spending this season here in Acadia National Park working as the raptor intern!
This year we have four pairs of peregrine falcons in the park: our usual residents at the Precipice on Champlain Mountain, Valley Cove on Somes Sound, Beech Cliffs on Echo Lake, and Jordan Cliffs on Jordan Pond. However, it is not yet known if they will all successfully produce peregrine chicks this year. Unfortunately, this season we had two nasty nor’easters blow through here in April, one that brought a lot of snow and one that brought a lot of rain. As you can imagine, this is not good for nesting peregrines. And while we thought that all four were sitting on eggs before the storms, determining their status now requires lots of observation time from staff.
The good news is that our Precipice pair seemed to have re-nested after the storms! Before the storms, they appeared to be using the old raven’s nest site that previous pairs had used for the past eight years. After the storms, however, they began exhibiting nesting activity at a different site, which was used in 2005. It is common for small birds to attempt to re-nest if their first clutch, or batch of eggs, fails. However, raptors do not always try to re-nest, especially here in the Northeast, since they require a whole season to raise one set of young to maturity (about four months for incubation, hatching, and learning to fly and hunt on their own). They can somehow sense that the eggs will not make it, at which point they will re-nest and try again. This appears to be the first re-nesting attempt made at the Precipice. We believe the second clutch was laid in the first week of May, and with an approximate incubation period of 33–35 days, that puts hatching sometime during the first week of June.
At this time last year, you could come to the Precipice and have a good chance of seeing the eyases, or chicks, which appeared as little white balls of puff peering over the edge of the cliff. However, due to the storms this year, activity has been delayed, and you are instead able to observe the peregrine’s nesting behavior. And trust me, this is much more exciting than it sounds! They have put on some spectacular aerial displays these past two weeks as they protect their territory from unwanted guests—basically every large bird that happens to be passing by! Visitors have witnessed attacks on bald eagles, several turkey vultures, an osprey, and a merlin. When these birds are spotted by the peregrines, one or both will take off from the cliff at high speed towards the bird, and either directly hit them or just wiz by to let them know they are not welcome anywhere near their cliff!
Stop by the Precipice between 9 a.m. and noon daily (weather permitting) to see what these fascinating birds of prey are up to! Please remember that because the peregrines so vigorously defend their territory, there are several trail closures to protect them during nesting, including the Precipice Trail and East Face Trail, the northern portion of the Flying Mountain Trail in Valley Cove, and the Jordan Cliffs Trail. (Homans Path is also closed due to an earthquake last fall.)
- Sarah Stio
June 5, 2007. The activity at the Precipice this past week has been...well, it has been interesting. Recently, the female and the male began staying off their nest for unusually extended periods, first for 30–40 minutes, then for over an hour. Typically, one of the parents will remain on the nest at all times with short breaks of perhaps only 15 to 20 minutes. This is because their "nest" is not really a nest, but rather a scrape; the falcon simply scrapes the gravel on the cliff ledge with her foot and lays the eggs. The developing eggs are therefore extremely exposed and need protection from the elements almost constantly. Within the past few days, there ceased to be any activity near the second nest site at all. They started to show more activity at another ledge, acting almost as if that was a third nest site!
Those of us observing the falcons are, to put it mildly, just plain confused. We are not really sure why they would stop tending to their second clutch, if there even was a second clutch of eggs (we will not know until a climber goes up to investigate, as we cannot see into the area from any place in the park), and if they are perhaps now on a third. However, a third clutch this late in the season is both extremely rare and unlikely to succeed, as the young take the full summer season to mature. Despite all of this, both the male and the female continue to defend their territory, which they would often do if they had a nest. They also remain very visible and very vocal, another behavior typical of nesting peregrines. The birds could just be confused because they do not have any young to take care of this season, as they have had chicks every year since they arrived (the female arrived five years ago and the male three years ago). Or perhaps they know something we do not! All of us here in the park are certainly still hoping for the latter. Based on recommendations from state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raptor biologists, we need to continue monitoring the birds closely to determine what they will do over the next couple of weeks. The trail and area closures will continue because we want to be sure that they have every opportunity to nest.
If in fact the pair is not successful in producing young, this would be the first time in 17 years that chicks did not fledge from the Precipice. After the park participated in a reintroduction program in the 1980s, one of the reintroduced males returned and eventually attracted a mate. In 1991, they came to the Precipice and had their first successful nest, producing the first peregrine chicks hatched on Mount Desert Island since 1956. Since then, each year peregrines have been successful at the Precipice, fledging an impressive total of 52 chicks. This has been a source of pride and joy for the park, and has been a great success story for the Endangered Species Act. The eastern subspecies that once inhabited eastern North America went extinct due to the effects of the pesticide DDT, which inhibited their ability to metabolize calcium and resulted in abnormally thin eggshells. Only due to the protection of the Endangered Species Act, an intensive reintroduction program, and the countless hours devoted by workers and volunteers are we able to see peregrine falcons here today. Peregrines were federally delisted from the Endangered Species Act in 1999, but are still endangered and protected in the state of Maine as well as many other states around the country.
So what will become of the Precipice pair now? Will they surprise us with chicks? Will they stick around and continue to dazzle us with impressive aerial displays? Come to the Precipice (weather permitting) anytime between 9 a.m. and noon daily and watch with us as the drama unfolds!
- Sarah Stio
Did You Know?
Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the tallest mountain along the eastern coast of the United States. During certain times of the year, it is the first place in the U.S. to see sunrise.