Banner year for Acadia falcons

Peregrine falcon chicks near the Precipice Trail in 2008 (ANP photo)PreciChicks08

I have an update for an article I wrote last week about peregrine falcon chicks fledging this year in Acadia National Park.

When I wrote the story, I had emailed park staff and, after some back and forth, got the information I sought. Seven chicks, I reported, had been born and successfully fledged (i.e., taken wing) at three sites in the park near trails that had been closed since spring while their parents tried to reproduce. The trails – at Jordan Cliffs, Valley Cove and Precipice – have been reopened now that the young birds are independent enough to fly on their own.

But I since have found out that there is more relevant information to report. I failed to ask about and get info on the nesting efforts of a mating pair of peregrine falcons on Ironbound Island.

Ironbound Island, an island more than 800 acres in size in Frenchman Bay, east of Mount Desert Island, technically is not part of Acadia (it’s privately owned) but the park owns a conservation easement for the entire island. The habitat on the island preferred by peregrine falcons (high cliffs) is protected by the park from development.

In an email sent Wednesday, Mary Downey of Acadia National Park told me two chicks fledged this year from the falcon nest on Ironbound Island, which would raise the total number produced this year in Acadia (or lands the park protects) to 9 or 10. She said park staff still are not sure if one or two chicks fledged from Jordan Cliffs, but they do know two fledged from Valley Cove and four from Precipice.

Be it 9 or 10, this year appears to be one of the most productive for peregrines in Acadia’s protected lands in recent memory. I’ve asked park staff and have checked the BDN archives, and cannot find any year in the past decade that has produced as many young flying falcons. The best I can tell, seven chicks fledged in 2006 and again in 2008, none in 2007 or 2011, while in other years the numbers have varied from two to six.

Peregrine falcons were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act from 1970 to 1999 and still are a protected species in Maine. The falcons are well known for their breath-taking aerial plunges which, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, can reach speeds of up to 200 mph.

The fact that this year’s young falcons in Acadia have taken wing doesn’t mean they have flown the coop. They are expected to remain in the park until the early fall, at which point they and their parents will migrate south for the winter.

Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors. He writes about fisheries, marine-related topics, eastern coastal Maine communities and more for the BDN. He lives in Ellsworth. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.