Endangered falcons establish breeding nest on Eberhard Center
Posted on May 11, 2017
Two peregrine falcons are currently using the Eberhard Center as their new penthouse suite for the first time since a nesting box was installed on the building eight years ago.
The nest box was installed by Todd Aschenbach, professor of biology, and a team of students in February of 2009. A grant from Grand Valley’s Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence allowed the team to purchase and install a webcam in 2010 to monitor the falcons. The webcam can be viewed http://gvsu.edu/s/0sG.
Michael Lombardo, professor of biology, said the arrival of these two peregrine falcons in April is significant because they are a breeding pair.
“When they were off the nest recently, I saw that they were incubating three eggs,” Lombardo said. “Breeding individuals tend to return to previous nesting sites, so there is a very good chance of the falcons returning next year, especially if this breeding attempt is successful.”
In West Michigan, the nesting period for peregrine falcons is approximately 40 days (May-June). Should the falcons return to the Eberhard Center next year, Lombardo and Aschenbach hope to offer the nest box webcam as an educational resource to faculty and students interested in studying animal behavior and ornithology, the scientific study of birds.
Aschenbach said the nest box was initially constructed as a means to increase public awareness about the declining peregrine falcon population in Michigan, and also as an attempt to expand the local population of the species. While the peregrine falcon was removed from the federal Endangered Species List in 1999, the species is still on Michigan’s endangered list.
The box was also an effort to provide more nesting locations for peregrine falcons that were already residing in Grand Rapids.
“John Will, a birder and peregrine falcon enthusiast in Grand Rapids, approached us in early 2008 about installing a nest box on the Eberhard Center because peregrines were nesting on top of the Kent County Courthouse,” said Aschenbach. “He wanted to provide additional nesting opportunities, so we held a fundraising event in November 2008 in order to raise funds for the nest box, installation and a webcam.”
Peregrine falcons were initially driven to the brink of extinction in the 1960s due to the use of the pesticide DDT. When DDT was banned in 1972, peregrines were added to the federal Endangered Species List. In 1982, peregrine falcon reintroduction first began in Minnesota and the birds were reintroduced to downtown Grand Rapids in 1986.
Peregrine falcons generally use cliffs, buildings, bridges and smokestacks as nest sites on all continents, except Antarctica. The species typically preys on other birds and can dive at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour.