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‘A new generation’: Peregrine falcon chicks return, hatch atop Nebraska State Capitol

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‘A new generation’: Peregrine falcon chicks return, hatch atop Nebraska State Capitol

Jun 12, 2024 | 2:43 pm ET
By Zach Wendling
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‘A new generation’: Peregrine falcon chicks return, hatch atop Nebraska State Capitol
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Three baby peregrine falcons hatched in mid-May 2024, the first in eight years since the last successful clutch of eggs. June 12, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — A trio of peregrine falcon chicks — the first to hatch atop the Nebraska State Capitol in eight years — received ankle bands Wednesday that will aid in tracking, research and conservation.

The baby peregrines, believed to be two females and one male, who haven’t yet been named, hatched about three weeks ago and will fledge, or try to leave their nest, in about three more weeks, said Joel Jorgensen, nongame bird program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The bands attached to the birds’ ankles assist in identification and tracking.

The May hatching is the first since a previous peregrine falcon duo raised 23 young over the course of their careers, Jorgensen said. The previous falcons perched at the Capitol between 2005 and 2020, though the last successful clutch of eggs came in 2016. 

For Doug and Betsy Finch, the husband and wife duo behind the nonprofit Raptor Conservation Alliance, which has decades of experience for local raptors, it was an exciting day.

“Oh, it’s pretty special,” said Betsy Finch, the alliance’s director, who joined the Game and Parks Commission for a quick check up on each of the falcon chicks.

She said the nonprofit rehabilitates hundreds of birds each year and there is usually a peregrine or two in the mix, which fascinates the Finch duo for the bird’s impressive speeds. Betsy Finch said there’s a “mystique” behind peregrine falcons — they are the fastest bird and animal in the world, reaching diving speeds of more than 200 miles per hour.

“I have a T-shirt at home and on the back it says, ‘Cheetahs are awesome if you like slow motion,’” Doug Finch, the conservation alliance’s president, said with a laugh.

A public Facebook group dedicated to Lincoln’s peregrine falcons is seeking to identify the adult peregrine falcons.

According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, peregrines are a “top predator” and don’t need a large ecosystem, but they faced challenges similar to bald eagles after the pesticide DDT was developed in the 1940s.

The chemical helped fight insect borne diseases with great success but had varied impacts on wildlife, especially for species higher up on the food web, such as peregrine falcons.

There were about 3,800 active peregrine falcon nests prior to DDT use, yet this declined nearly 92%, to about 324 nests. The species was listed as endangered in 1970 after just 35 years. However, more than 70,000 peregrine falcons are estimated to be in the United States and Canada today because of conservation work. 

The species came off the the Endangered Species List in 1999.

Betsy Finch said the research will help track the falcons’ peregrinations, or their travels for winter and where they spend the summer. Some stay in Lincoln, which is unusual, she said, and others might migrate all the way to Argentina in the winter, according to Doug Finch.

The Game and Parks Commission offers live streams of the falcons above the capital city and inside their nest.

“To be up here again after eight years, and then to see a new generation coming up,” Doug Finch said, “that’s pretty cool, too.”

 

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