9 peregrine falcon chicks fledge at Acadia National Park

Nine peregrine falcon chicks fledged at three nests at Acadia National Park in 2019, helping clear the way for the popular Precipice Trail to open.

peregrine falcon chick

Recently retired park wildlife biologist, Bruce Connery, holds a peregrine chick that has just been lowered from its scrape, or nest, for banding. (NPS photo)

According to Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for Acadia, four peregrine falcon chicks fledged at  the Precipice on the east face of Champlain Mountain; three at Jordan Cliffs and two at Valley Cove over Somes Sound. The total is one more than last year and about 150 peregrine falcon chicks have fledged at Acadia over the last 28 years.

The steep Precipice Trail, perhaps the most difficult trail in the park for hikers, opened on Friday.

Although annual closures at Acadia for the state-endangered nesting falcons have been lifted, the Jordan Cliffs Trail remains closed across the cliffs for extensive trail work, 7 am to 4:30 pm, each Monday through Thursday, according to Anastasia.

Valley Cove Trail has been closed since July 2016 due to severely damaged and deteriorated walls, stone steps, and tread support structures, according to the park. Planning is underway to reopen the trail later this autumn. The trail is located between Flying Mountain and Man O’ War Brook, on the east side St. Sauveur Mountain, along Somes Sound, according to the park.

The Precipice Trail, the Valley  Cove Trail and the Jordan Cliffs Trail are usually closed each year in late March or early April until late July or early August each year because of nesting peregrine falcon chicks.

Nest for peregrine falcon chicks on Precipice failed in 2018

Last year, in an unusual event, a nest  for peregrine falcon chicks failed at the Precipice, prompting park officials to reopen the trail on July 13 of last year.

peregrine falcon chicks

Looks like almost feeding time for peregrine falcon chick, being banded in Acadia National Park in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Erin Wheat)

Eight peregrine falcon chicks fledged last year at Acadia, five in 2017 and 11 in 2016.

Under a reintroduction program for the falcons, the first successful nest in 35 years occurred in 1991 in Acadia National Park.

The peregrine falcon had disappeared from the eastern U.S. during the 1960s and also from almost all of the rest of the country because of extensive application of the DDT pesticide, which was later banned.

The resident breeding population of peregrines remains  endangered under Maine’s Endangered Species Act.

The 1962 book Silent Spring by Maine’s Rachel Carson helped raise public awareness of the dangerous use of pesticides.  The federal EPA in 1972 approved a ban on DDT based on its harmful environmental effects.

4 thoughts on “9 peregrine falcon chicks fledge at Acadia National Park

  1. Alice MacDonald Long

    Maybe it’s time to back off on protecting them like we do at Acadia. It’s my understanding that their major food source is smaller birds and we don’t want to see that population decline – right?

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Alice. It is a provocative and interesting question: do peregrines eat too many song birds? We don’t know but maybe it is a question worth debating or studying. The peregrine falcon was taken off the federal endangered list in 1999, but the resident breeding population remains endangered under Maine’s Endangered Species Act. Do hawks eat song birds? Maybe not as much as falcons. An organization called Hawks Aloft Inc. reports that falcons generally eat other birds, such as small songbirds, medium-sized birds such as rock pigeons, or even larger birds such as ducks and waterfowl. Hawks and owls, on the other hand, typically prey upon ground dwelling mammals such as mice, voles, rats, squirrels, and rabbits. If Acadia National Park stopped closing the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs each year because of nesting falcons, we wonder what would happen to the resident peregrines in Acadia, especially after so much hard work was involved in restoring the population. Maybe temporary closure of the trails also helps protects people. The state of New York cautions rock climbers in the Adirondacks that “falcons are very territorial and will utilize their razor sharp talons in defense of their domain, including attacks on humans.” Also, if people disturb falcon nests, it can cause falcons to abandon the nest or it can result in the death of chicks. The state Dept. of Environmental Conservation in New York lists peregrines as an endangered species in the state of New York and like Acadia, closes certain rock climbing routes in the Adirondacks during breeding season.

      1. Alice MacDonald Long

        Thank you for your reply. I never considered the Peregrine falcons attacking the hikers. My late husband, Ralph Long was attacked while birding once when he was alive by a hawk – so, I understand that’s one thing to consider.

        1. Acadia on my mind Post author

          I never considered a falcon attacking a person either until I believe a bird expert told me that once at Peregrine Watch, the program by Acadia National Park that allows people to look through a scope to see nesting falcons on the Precipice. The expert’s point was that maybe the trail closures are more to protect hikers than the nests of peregrines. The closures likely protect both the nests and hikers. Thanks again, Alice. That’s scary to be attacked by a hawk. Hope there were no serious injuries.

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