DEP Biologists Tag 4 Peregrine Falcon Chicks In Middletown

Part Of Effort To Monitor Threatened Species

When you view webcams watching peregrine falcons, such as those at the Travelers Tower, you get a sense of how cute a peregrine falcon chick is. But when you're a foot away from one, you find yourself saying "awwww" every 20 seconds or so.

On the soundless webcams, you can't hear how well-developed the chicks' vocal cords are at 3 weeks old. But with four chicks screeching at once in a nest inside a tiny abandoned building in Middletown, the sound can be deafening.

"OK, we hear ya," state Department of Environmental Protection biologist Julie Victoria said on a recent rainy day as she used a pair of pliers to place a tracking band on the leg of a protesting chick. I had tagged along with Victoria and fellow DEP biologist Jenny Dickson to a nest in Middletown, merely a scrape on a ledge in a relatively inaccessible location. The nest is one of the state's most successful. The peregrine falcon was nearly eliminated from the Northeast due to the use of the DDT pesticide, but has rebounded after re-introduction programs were started in neighboring states.

After a harrowing climb, Dickson and Victoria netted the chicks. With their big eyes and fluffly white plumage, they sat silently staring up at their giant visitors as one of their parents circled around us, screaming.

PHOTOS: Peregrine Falcons Tagged In Middletown

The peregrine falcon has always been one of my favorite birds of prey. The birds almost look royal, with their stately sideburns and slate-blue feathers and the way they stand on high ledges or buildings looking down on their domain. And it doesn't hurt that they are one of the fastest creatures in the natural world, reaching speeds of 180 to 200 mph on a dive.

Because Victoria is retiring this summer, Dickson is learning the ins and outs of tagging the chicks and will be taking over the program. This year, there are 14 peregrine falcon pairs nesting across the state. Last year 25 chicks fledged, and Victoria said the fledging number gets higher each year.

It's amazing to watch Victoria patiently attaching bands to the chicks' legs, just above their razor-sharp talons. The bands — which can be seen easily with binoculars — will be used to monitor the population as they travel around Connecticut or neighboring states.

These parents will continue to raise their young, despite their chicks having been removed briefly from the nest. As Victoria pointed out, the parents have "so much invested" in the young at this stage they wouldn't abandon them, despite the human intrusion and their new footwear.

But there will come a time when the parents will leave their young. It's an abrupt departure, Victoria said —mom and dad just leave one day and let the chicks "figure things out for themselves."

And, like all things in the natural world, they will.

Visit to view one of the oldest nesting locations of the peregrine falcon in the state. Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365, at or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.

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