Peregrine falcon breeding population monitoring and management in Virginia (1978 – present)

OBJECTIVES:

The peregrine falcon population in Virginia was extirpated by the early 1960s and restoration efforts were initiated in the late 1970s. Since the first successful post-introduction breeding in the early 1980s the population has been closely monitored and managed. Our objectives with this project have been 1) to monitor the recovery of the peregrine falcon population, 2) to evaluate the success of past and present management techniques, 3) to improve productivity of nesting pairs through active management, and 4) to increase our understanding of peregrine falcon natural history in the mid-Atlantic region.


PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The historic population of peregrine falcons in eastern North America relied on open cliff faces and cut-banks for nesting, and was mostly confined to the Appalachian Mountains. The population experienced a precipitous decline throughout the 1950s due to contaminant-induced, reproductive suppression and was believed to have been extirpated by the early 1960s. The species was elevated to the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 1970. In the absence of any residual breeding stock, one of the key components of the recovery strategy for the eastern population was the production and release of captive-reared falcons. Virginia participated in this program releasing 115 birds on the coast between 1978 and 1985 and another 127 birds in the mountains between 1985 and 1993. The first breeding occurred in 1982 and the population has exhibited slow but steady growth since that time. The Virginia population has reached the size estimated from historic records. However, nearly the entire known breeding population continues to occupy the Coastal Plain with pairs nesting on artificial structures including peregrine towers, bridges, buildings, smoke stacks and other miscellaneous structures. Relatively few breeding pairs have been documented within the historic mountain breeding range. Suitable structures within the Coastal Plain are surveyed annually for occupation by resident peregrines and occupied territories are monitored for breeding activity. Productivity is determined for active pairs and all chicks are banded for future identification. Periodic surveys have been conducted of historic mountain eyries and prominent cliff formations. Recent survey efforts by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the National Park Service have documented breeding attempts in a few locations.


Years: 1978 – present

Status: Complete

Project Partners: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Park Service, Virginia Department of Transportation, National Park Service, Dominion Power, United States Forest Service, Advanced Finishing Systems

CCB Staff: Mitchell Byrd, Bryan Watts, Shawn Padgett, Libby Mojica

Project Contact: Bryan Watts bdwatt@wm.edu (757) 221-2247


Learn more about CCB’s Virginia peregrine falcon monitoring, management, and hacking efforts.