Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Four peregrine falcon chicks born atop U-M hospital

Four peregrine falcon chicks hatched May 2 in a nesting box on the roof of University Hospital at the U-M Health System.

  Three of the four falcon chicks that hatched May 2 in a nesting box atop University Hospital. (Photo by Barb Baldinger, Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

This is the second successful year for the mother falcon. Last year, the breeding couple welcomed three chicks. The young will stay with the adults until the end of August.

The university will offer the community an opportunity to name the baby falcons through an online contest. Please visit the U-M Facebook page for contest updates.

A pair of adult peregrines was first spotted at the Burton Memorial Tower in 2006. University officials ordered the bells and chimes to be silenced in an effort to prevent the bells from disturbing the falcons' nesting season. Every year since, a pair of falcons has returned to campus, where they have been spotted at Burton Tower, University Hospital and other tall buildings.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, it is not uncommon for peregrine falcons to use the same nest site for many years. In urban areas, peregrine pairs tend to nest on tall buildings or bridges, which simulate high cliffs and ledges, making the University Hospital rooftop a prime location.

From left, Kristen Bissell, Christine Becher and Tim Payne of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources band a falcon chick. (Photo by Barb Baldinger, Michigan Department of Natural Resources)  

In 2010, U-M officials sought guidance from the DNR and the U-M Museum of Zoology staff to help protect the falcons, which are on the state's endangered-species list, while Burton Memorial Tower underwent exterior repairs. Following recommendations from DNR, the university decided to delay repair work on the exterior of the tower until after the nesting season.

After nesting attempts at the tower continued to fail, two nesting boxes were installed for the falcons at University Hospital and at North Quad buildings in an effort to relocate them to a more suitable area. The materials and labor used to build the nesting box were provided by U-M Skilled Trades Union.

The four falcon chicks were banded late last week so they can be tracked by the DNR. Staff officials identified two female and two male chicks.

The peregrine falcon has been removed from the federal endangered-species list, but remains on the state endangered-species list. The male bird is about the size of a crow; female birds are slightly larger than the males.