Baby peregrine gets leg bands

DUBUQUE (AP) — A peregrine falcon chick has received identification bands as part of a raptor monitoring program in eastern Iowa.
David Kester, a field researcher with the nonprofit Raptor Resource Project, climbed atop the Dubuque County Courthouse to attach the metal bands, which allow researchers to track raptors’ survival rates, migration distance and population growth.
The female chick, which hatched May 31, looked to be in perfect health, Kester said. It was the first successful hatching for the falcon pair that live on the courthouse’s sixth-floor ledge.
The birds are one of only 19 known nesting pairs in the state, said Pat Schlarbaum, a retired wildlife diversity program technician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
The Iowa Peregrine Falcon Recovery Program reintroduced 40 falcons to the Dubuque area in 1999 and 2000. The goal was to get the birds to return to their natural habitat at the cliffs surrounding the Mississippi River, according to Lowell Washburn, a retired Iowa Department of Natural Resources employee who helped oversee the program.
“They are an extremely rare nester in Iowa,” he said.
Kester also checked in on a potential nesting site near Eagle Point Park by rappelling down a nearly 200-foot bluff face, but he didn’t find any nests. He noted that falcons have moved into urban areas such as the courthouse because there are fewer predators.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said there used to be almost 3,900 pairs of nesting falcons in North America, but that number dropped to just under 325 by 1975. Now there are between 2,000 and 3,000 breeding pairs, according to recent estimates.