Saturday, June 15, 2024

Peregrine falcons hatch from MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Club's nest box

May 17, 2024
<p>A peregrine falcon guards its three eggs in the nest box. Photo courtesy of MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Club.</p>

A peregrine falcon guards its three eggs in the nest box. Photo courtesy of MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Club.

Perched atop Spartan Stadium, nestled near the press box, is an oasis for peregrine falcons, reminiscent of their cliff-side home.

Implemented by the Michigan State University Fisheries and Wildlife Club, the falcon nesting box project has provided a safe nesting space for the once-endangered peregrine falcon species every year since its move to Spartan Stadium in 2022. From May 6 to May 12, 2024, three more peregrine chicks have hatched as a result.

However, the path to this result wasn’t devoid of tribulations, Advisor of the Fisheries and Wildlife Club Jim Schneider said.

Schneider said it was discovered that peregrine falcons were in the area and were fond of the stadium during a construction project in the early 2000s.

“It's been known that peregrines were around or interested as far back as when they built the press box section on the left side of the football stadium,” Schneider said. “Birds actually tried to nest while the construction was going on. Before any of the glass was put in and when it was just i-beams and such that they were using. So, we had to believe that they wanted to do this.”

Yet, the falcon box had two other homes before it found its way to Spartan Stadium.

The box originally resided on the catwalk of a power plant that sat where the STEM building is now. The box was near where the peregrine falcons were found at the stadium, but was set up on a separate building and faced a different direction.

After that location was found to be unsuccessful, club members attempted to put it on top of Hubbard Hall because it’s one of the highest places on campus, Schneider said. However, the box still remained untouched.

At that point, club members began to listen to who they were placing the box for in the first place, Schneider said.

“Really, it was the birds that were telling us,” he said. “For some reason they really liked that spot. And it was like, ‘Well, okay. That's what they like. Let's see if we can give them a place to simulate a cliff’s ledge.’”

The box the MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Club uses is intended to simulate the rocky mountainous ledges that peregrine falcons find to be ideal for mating.

But after all the trouble, Schneider said, the new location paid off.

“It wasn’t a month later and birds were nesting there,” he said. “It was really exciting. We didn't think it would happen that quickly.”

falcon2

MSU Fisheries and Wildlife President Drew Lacommare said that providing a space for peregrine falcons was important because of their previously held endangered status. It’s all the more important to look out for them to ensure their safety and longevity, Lacommare said.

Nest boxes like this make sure that they have a safe place to reproduce each year, which is really important,” they said. “So, it promotes their species which is great, especially because they've had a hard time in the past.”

Lacommare said the project spurs conversation in the community regarding wildlife and conservation.

“It makes the community be involved with wildlife that exists in our own backyard,” they said.

The falcon box also features a camera that runs day and night, and provides a livestream that anyone can view at any time.

While this does promote their goal of engaging the community, Schneider said, it also creates other issues.

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“Students having to deal with people who think they know more than our students do— armchair biologists, whatever you want to call them,” Schneider said. “They get a lot of comments about the feed and people tell them, ‘you should do this and you should do that.’”

However, he added, the students from the Fisheries and Wildlife Club gladly led the charge on all forms of communication outreach with the community and learned a lot from the experience.

“We talk to students about how important communication is,” Schneider said. “The students over the last three years have probably done more newspaper, TV and radio interviews than many of our faculty have done because of this live stream.”

Students also took charge with much of the fundraising and proposal-writing responsible for the box in the first place.

And as the project moves forward, the club will continue to come up with ways to further the research advancements made with the project, MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Club Wildlife Chair Jason Zhen said.

Just this year, the club added a microphone to the box so livestream viewers can now listen to the chirps of newly hatched chicks or the mighty caw of a mother returning home from hunting.

Zhen said the advancement did more than just provide audio.

“People can really hear how vocal they are,” Zhen said. “People can realize that wildlife is not far from them and feel a real closeness.”

In the future, he’d like to implement other technologies to help gather more elaborate data.

“A project I’m thinking about is to put a GPS on a peregrine falcon,” Zhen said. “I’d hope we could track the peregrine falcon’s whole season.”

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In the meantime, anyone can hop onto the livestream to view Acorn, Reggie and Franklin as they grow up.

Lacommare said that viewers should watch for a few things over the next few weeks.

“So once they get a little bit bigger, they'll stop hopping around and kind of start testing out their wings— which is really fun to see,” they said. “Their white fluffy feathers will fall out and get replaced with adult feathers. Then, coming up here probably towards the end of May or beginning of June, we’ll band them so that we can identify them if they get caught.”

To see more on the falcons, individuals can visit the MSU Fisheries and Wildlife website.

"Peregrine falcons are family," Zhen said.

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