The Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project was originally intended to be a five year project. However, the contributing organizations decided to extend it for one more year, making 2011 the final year of the New River Gorge Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project.
Twenty-three juvenile falcons, or eyasses, were transferred to Three Rivers Avian Center from Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey on various dates from May 25, 2011 to July 7, 2011. One Peregrine was considered not releasable due to medical reasons, and was returned to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research. Birds were released on staggered dates beginning June 23 until June 29. Two additional Peregrines were received late in the program on July 7 and released on July 11. These birds were received as already flighted juveniles, with their age making them exempt from this year's success calculations.
This year had the lowest percentage of birds successfully released at 65%, or thirteen falcons. Interaction with two adult Peregrines establishing territory in the area more than likely contributed to the unsuccessful release of the other seven eyasses. The two adult Peregrines were a second year male (not identified) and a successfully released 2009 female. It was determined that the two falcons did not currently have a nest in the area, but it seemed they were establishing territory to prepare for nesting. It was decided to make the first release a large group, to hopefully deter the territorial adults from suppressing the juveniles. Ten birds were released on June 23, seven released on June 26, and three released on June 29. This put a total of twenty birds released in a week. Although no physical contact was ever observed between the adults and released juveniles, the adult falcons definitely had an effect on the success rate. Two in the first released group and three in the second group were not seen after day one. Two out of the three birds released from group three were considered lost.
At the end of the sixth year, a grand total of 122 birds had been released at New River Gorge National River. Our Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project is the largest peregrine restoration project in the Eastern United States in terms of both numbers and success rates.
National Park Service staff, Three Rivers Avian Center staff, and volunteers in 2012 and subsequent years will be monitoring the Gorge area for peregrine falcon sightings; sightings of flyovers, feeding, courtship, nesting, and/or young will be used to help measure the success of the program in aiding the re-establishment of peregrines in the park and surrounding areas.
For more information check out the Three Rivers Avian Center Peregrine Restoration Project Page: http://www.tracwv.org/restoration.html