Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Falcon spending the winter in Golden Valley

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird conservation, Bird identification, Bird migration, Bird sightings Updated: February 17, 2012 - 11:00 AM

A Peregrine Falcon is spending the winter on and near a falcon nesting location high on the east side of the Colonnade building in Golden Valley. The building in immediately north of I-394 just west of Highway 100. My wife and I have seen th bird several times as we drive past. Bettter (and safer) looks are available from the parking lot of the Good Day Cafe located just east of the Colonnade. Falcons have nested for the past several years on a ledge high on the northeast corner of the building. I wondered how unusual it is to have this species spend the winter with us. The usual migration pattern for Peregrines takes them 

I sent an email question to Mark Martell, director of bird conservation for Audubon Minnesota who has studied this species for years. I wanted to know if it was very unusual for a Peregrine to stay this far north in winter. Here is what he wrote me:

"The short answer is-- not that unusual. 


"Some, but not all, urban nesting birds stick around all winter. Probably because there is no reason to leave, they can find shelter, and most importantly food (pigeons, starlings, etc). In contrast, birds nesting on the north shore or along the Mississippi River are likely forced to migrate since their prey base has moved on. Worldwide, peregrine sub-species have different strategies as well, arctic peregrines migrate but those from more temperate climates do not. 

"Since some, but not all, of the falcons stick around, we have wondered if there is a strong genetic component to this behavior. The birds that were introduced into the midwest came from a variety of backgrounds and it may be that those from migratory populations leave while the others don't. Bud Tordoff and I tried to make sense of this a few years ago, but the birds had mixed it up so much we could not make sense of it."

(The insecticide DDT, found in falcon prey as the chemical worked its way up the food chain, caused falcon egg shells to thin so much that they broke under the weight of the incubating female. Falcons disappeared from much of the United States. Once DDT was banned, a reintroduction program was started here. Martell and Dr. Bud Tordoff of the University of Minnesota, were leaders in that effort.)

The first photo shows one of the Colonnade nesting falcons returning to the building with downtown Minneapolis in the background. The image contains reflections from the glass of the window through which it was taken. The second photo shows one of those falcons on its nesting ledge with the remains of a meal.

 

 

 

 

 

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