The preferred method used for peregrine falcon re-introduction is called "hacking." The hacking process at Shenandoah consists of taking at-risk falcon chicks from nest sites in eastern Virginia, and bringing them to the Park where they are placed in protective wooden boxes (hack boxes) for approximately 10 days. The hackbox is placed on a high cliff ledge that mimics a natural peregrine falcon nest scrape. The boxes are constructed so that the young birds can view and acclimate to their environment as they mature, but are protected from predators such as raccoons. While they are in the boxes, park staff provide for their care and feeding, and monitor their condition, all the while minimizing contact with humans.
When the falcons are ready for flight, the boxes are opened and the falcons are allowed to leave. They will continue to be fed and monitored at the hacksite as they learn to hunt for themselves. The young fledglings will often mimic their brood mates as they refine their flight and hunting skills.Generally, the falcons remain in the local area for several weeks. By late-July they begin to take extended "practice" flights of over 200 miles. By late August, they leave the area by wandering into other states and eventually migrating south or east as fall approaches. It is hoped that the birds will imprint on Shenandoah's prominent cliffs and return as breeding adults in 2-3 years. Ultimately, Foster Falcon partners hope that this project will help to meet the USFWS recovery goal of 21 breeding pairs in the Central and Southern Appalachians.
Did You Know?
Skyline Drive, the only public road through Shenandoah National Park, rides the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles through the park, then joins the Blue Ridge Parkway which connects Shenandoah to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC.