Peregrine Falcons Breeding in South Burlington
By Margaret Fowle, Conservation Biologist, Audubon Vermont
Peregrine Falcons have become a much more common sight in Vermont in the past few decades, and South Burlington residents can now proudly claim their own nesting pair at Red Rocks Park.
First discovered in 2014, the Red Rocks falcon pair first nested successfully in 2017 and raised a record five young in 2018. Peregrines usually return to the same nesting cliff every year, so their continued presence means there is appropriate habitat at Red Rocks Park. Their success at the Park has been in large part due to people respecting the birds’ need for space during the breeding season. Because peregrines are a long-lived species, there is the potential for the falcons to breed at Red Rocks for a long time to come. However, they will only do so if they are not disturbed by people while they are nesting.
Peregrines begin their nesting season in late winter. Red Rocks Park is relatively quiet at this time of year, so the falcons can begin their nesting process with minimal disturbance. More people come to the park as the weather improves, however, and this is when it becomes critical for visitors to keep a respectful distance from the nesting area. Staying away from the nesting area until the young falcons have learned to fly gives the pair greatest chance of success. The risk of too much disturbance can cause the adults to abandon the nest and nestlings.
Currently there is a robust breeding population of peregrines in Vermont, with over 55 pairs in 2018. This success is due to a variety of efforts including the passage of the Endangered Species Act, banning the pesticide DDT, reintroduction, breeding site monitoring and management, and education. Without continued conservation efforts, however, the peregrine’s future might not be as bright. That is why it is still important for people to maintain a respectful distance from the falcons’ nest.
Vermont began its recovery efforts in 1982, when falcons were reintroduced at historic breeding sites through a process called “hacking.” The first pair returned to breed in 1984. After thirty years of intensive monitoring and protection of Vermont peregrines at breeding sites throughout the state, peregrines arrived at Red Rocks Park.
The Peregrine Falcon’s speed, agility, and beauty inspire awe, and the species’ presence and success in our state demonstrates what can happen when people respect wildlife and the places they need to survive.