Peregrine falcons reclaim nesting territories at Acadia National Park

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Date: March 17, 2014
Contact: Bruce Connery, 207-288-8726

Peregrine falcons are once again defending nesting territories on the Precipice and Valley Cove Cliffs in Acadia National Park. Park staff have observed adults at both sites engaging in courtship and pre-nesting behavior, signaling the birds' intentions to nest and raise chicks during the spring and early summer. Peregrine falcons were extirpated several decades ago and remain listed as a Maine Endangered Species to help in the recovery and conservation of the species.

In order to protect the nesting birds from inadvertent disturbance or harassment, areas in and around the Precipice and Valley Cove cliffs are closed to all visitor and operational activities. The closure at The Precipice includes the popular Precipice Trail on the east face of Champlain Mountain and the equally popular Orange & Black Path (formerly the East Face Trail). In addition to the trails, the closure applies to the surrounding cliff face area. The closure at Valley Cove includes Valley Cove Trail and the entire cliff area directly west of Valley Cove and below St. Sauveur and Valley Peak.The closed trails are clearly marked with signs that identify the reason for the closure and include a map that delineates the area of the closure. These trails will remain closed until approximately five weeks after the chicks take their first flights, or fledge, from their nests. The opening of the trails and cliffs is usually in early August. If the park biologist determines that the nesting attempt has failed later this spring or early in the summer, the park's management team will be informed and will make a decision about when to open the trails and surrounding cliff areas.

The park staff have been observing other possible nesting cliffs in the park this spring in hopes of documenting other falcon nesting behavior or activity. To date no falcons or indications that the birds are present (i.e., territorial defense or breeding behavior) have been observed. If falcons are observed engaging in pre-nesting or courtship activities at other sites, the park management team will consider the new information and identify if closures are needed for these areas.

Research has shown that nesting falcons are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance in the immediate vicinity of the nest or directed at the nest site.Continued disturbances can lead to chick mortality or complete nest failure, which further slows the recovery of the species in Maine.

In 1991, the first pair of peregrine falcons nested successfully on the east face of Champlain Mountain.A second pair of falcons established a nest site on Beech Cliffs above Echo Lake in 1995, and a third pair of falcons established a nesting territory at Jordan Cliffs in 1996. In 2009, park staff found a new territory on Ironbound Island in Frenchman Bay, marking the fifth site in the park's legislative area that has been used by falcons for nesting. Mount Desert Island's nesting falcons have become a mainstay in the recovery of peregrine falcons in Maine with more than one hundred chicks fledged since 1991 when the first nesting was documented in Maine.

For more information on trail closures visit our Temporary Closures page.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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