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Albany-Rensselaer, NY Peregrine Falcon Nest Site History

Albany, the state's capital, is fortunate to have a pair of endangered peregrine falcons nesting on the Dunn Memorial Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between the Cities of Albany and Rensselaer.

First Nesting Activity

Department of Transportation (DOT) workers first noticed peregrine falcons in the vicinity of the Dunn Memorial Bridge in 1998. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) biologists were advised, and asked to verify the tentative identification, and after several days of observation, DEC staff confirmed that a pair had set up a territory at the bridge.

Initiation and Installation of the Live Video Nest Box Camera

In the winter of 1999-2000, Level 3 Communications Company began construction on a fiber optic cable project to bring service across the Hudson River on the Dunn Memorial Bridge through Rensselaer County to Massachusetts. They offered funding for a video camera and wireless transmitter/receiver system so that images of the peregrine nesting activity could be made available on the Internet and on TV monitors at various locations. This financial support formed the basis of a multi agency/private industry partnership to increase public awareness of wildlife and the challenges of managing wildlife in urban settings.

DEC and DOT staff arranged for installation of a video camera near the nest box. The State Office of General Services (OGS) and DEC developed the technical strategy for relaying the pictures to an informational kiosk and website.

The camera and transmitter equipment was installed on the bridge by a contractor during February-March, 2000. DOT provided an articulating boom truck known as a "Snooper" to lower the contractor beneath the bridge to install the camera and transmitter. At the same time the receiver was installed on the top of the Corning Tower building in Albany with assistance from Crown Castle Communications.

Once the camera and transmitter/receiver system was operational, the system was connected to the NYS Office of General Services (OGS) computer network. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's computer network was linked to the OGS network in order to provide the video pictures for this Internet page. In addition, a kiosk containing a TV monitor was designed and built by OGS. This was located on the Concourse level of the Empire State Plaza and provides a real time live video link to the nest site.

Summary of Nesting Seasons

2012 and 2011 Summary

During the 2011 and 2012 nesting seasons, the Dunn Memorial Bridge underwent a construction project involving the complete removal and reconstruction of major portions of the bridge deck. Regardless of the construction, five young fledged during both seasons. In addition to fledglings at the Dunn Memorial Bridge in 2011, four chicks hatched at the Collar City Bridge in Troy.

2010 Summary

The 2010 nesting season at the Dunn Memorial Bridge was unusual in a number of ways. First, was the pairing of the female with a male that still had immature plumage. This immediately raised questions as to whether the female would even lay eggs this year. The female did lay four eggs, although a couple of weeks later than usual, and two of those eggs hatched. The incubation period was also several days longer than expected. So far, so good.

Two chicks hatched on the evening of May 28. Six days later, one of the chicks apparently died and was removed from the nest box by one of the adults. The adults continued to feed their remaining chick, but at the age of about 3 ½ weeks, we noticed that the chick's tail and wing feathers were not as well developed as is typical of peregrine chicks that age. It appeared that the chick was being well fed, and from that point on, feather development seemed to continue at the normal rate.

The chick first left the nest box at a little over five weeks, an activity that typically first occurs at a little more than four weeks. Once outside of the nest box, the chick appeared to be active and agile on top of the concrete pier as it finished growing and exercising in preparation for its first flight. It fledged in Mid July at around seven weeks old instead of the usual six weeks.

The early fledgling stage is very challenging for all birds, and attempting those first flights from nest sites in urban environments poses additional hazards. Since 1998, a total of 33 young have fledged from the Dunn Memorial Bridge. We know that five of those died shortly after fledging. Three landed in the river and were not able to swim to shore, and two were hit by vehicles on top of the bridge. On July 17th, this year's single fledgling was found on the sidewalk on top of the bridge. Not yet a strong flyer, the bird likely flew very low over the bridge and was hit by a passing vehicle. A veterinarian who specializes in the care of birds of prey determined that its injuries were too severe to repair, and on July 20th, the bird was euthanized.

On a brighter note, another pair of peregrine falcons has been nesting on the Route 7 Bridge over the Hudson River in Troy. A pair was first confirmed on the bridge in 2007 and the Department of Transportation (DOT) installed nest boxes in 2009. Four young fledged from the box that year, and another four chicks successfully fledged in 2010. Information on viewing opportunities at that nest site will be posted on the web site next year.

2008 Summary

This was the fourth year in a row that a clutch of five eggs was produced, and egg laying began a couple of weeks earlier than has been typical at this nest site. Three of the eggs hatched on April 28th, and a fourth egg hatched on May 1st. On May 21st, four female chicks were fitted with metal leg bands and the single unhatched egg was removed from the nest box along with prey remains. During the fledging period in mid May, one of the four chicks was found swimming in the Hudson River by a tugboat crew. They removed the bird from the water, and Wildlife staff who found the bird to be well fed and without apparent injury, took it to the Rensselaer Riverfront Park to dry off and continue the fledging process. Although we do not know for certain, it is believed that the four chicks ultimately fledged from the bridge successfully.

2007 Summary

Five eggs were laid between March 26th and April 4th. Three of the five eggs hatched on May 7th and 8th. On May 29th three female chicks were fitted with leg bands and two unhatched eggs and prey remains were collected from the nest box. One of the chicks was lost between the time that the chicks began moving back and forth between the nest box and the top of the concrete pier and the time that the chicks were expected to fledge. It is likely that an accidental fall from the bridge caused the death of this chick. On June 15th one of two juveniles was observed flying to the bridge, and the other appeared ready to fly. We believe that two of the three chicks successfully fledged.

2006 Summary

During the first week in May, three chicks hatched from a clutch of five eggs. On the morning of May 8th, one dead chick was observed in the nest box and by the afternoon, it was no longer there. Two healthy chicks, one male and one female, were fitted with leg bands on May 26 when a little more than 3 weeks old. The two unhatched eggs were collected and will be submitted for contaminant analysis. It appears that the two chicks fledged successfully in mid June.

2005 Summary

Four chicks hatched during the first week in May from a clutch of five eggs laid in late March. When three weeks old, two male and two female falcon chicks were fitted with metal leg bands. In mid June two of the recently fledged chicks were captured and taken to a veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitator. One was recovered with a leg fracture from the road over the Dunn Memorial Bridge, the other did not appear to be injured, but was unable to fly and was captured on the ground near the bridge. These birds were rehabilitated and released. A satellite radio transmitter was attached to the uninjured bird which traveled to Connecticut and Long Island in the fall. The transmitter stopped working in October, so we have no information on its whereabouts after that.

2004 Summary

A new solar powered camera was installed on the bridge in early March with a great deal of assistance from the Department of Transportation the generosity of Triangle Rentals of Endicott, New York. Egg laying began on March 17th, the earliest ever at this site, and the clutch of four was completed during the last week in March. Only one of the four eggs hatched and the single chick successfully fledged from the nest site in mid June.

2003 Summary

Sometime prior to March 27th the first in a clutch of four eggs was laid. All eggs hatched by the end of the first week in May and the four fledglings flew from the bridge in mid June. One male and three female chicks were banded on May 29th when they were approximately 3½ weeks old. Two of the young females died shortly after fledging. One was discovered in the Hudson River by staff of the USS Slater, the other was hit by a vehicle on top of the bridge.

2002 Summary

Four eggs were laid at the very end of March, but all failed to hatch. On June 11th, the three intact eggs still present in the nest box were removed and submitted for necropsy and contaminant analysis. The three embryos examined appeared to have all developed normally to the same very late stage of development. It is likely that an event, such as the period of extremely cold temperatures that occurred in late April and early May, caused them all to die at about the same time.

2001 Summary

In 2001, the first of four eggs was laid on March 27th. All four eggs hatched and the young Peregrines were successfully raised to fledging in mid June. One of the young was later discovered dead on top of the bridge.

2000 Summary

A nest monitoring camera was installed beneath the bridge in late February so that the activities of the falcons could be observed by DEC staff and the public. Images were transmitted to a live video monitor kiosk in the Concourse of the Empire State Plaza and to the DEC public website. The first of four eggs laid in early April hatched on May 5th. One female and three male chicks were banded on May 26th and all fledged from the bridge in mid June.

1999 Summary

The adult falcons nested in one of two nest boxes that had been constructed and installed beneath the bridge in the fall of 1998. Five eggs were laid but only three hatched. Three female chicks, which appeared to be about 26 days old, were banded on June 10th. Judging from the approximate age of the chicks, the eggs were probably laid around the 12th of April, making it the latest clutch produced at this site. Two of the three chicks fledged successfully, but the third died after falling into the river during the vulnerable period when the young first attempt to fly.

1998 Summary

Peregrine Falcons were first observed nesting on top of one of the concrete piers that supports the Dunn Memorial Bridge in the spring. A single chick was successfully fledged in the middle of June. In the fall, two nest boxes were built by the NYS Department of Transportation and installed beneath the bridge to provide a more secure nesting site.

Credits

The generous financial support of Level3 Communications Company provided the foundation for the project, covering equipment and installation costs for the basic video system. Niagara Mohawk Power Company assisted with power needs on the Dunn Memorial Bridge and Crown Castle Communications assisted with installation of the receiver on the Corning Tower. Staff of DEC, DOT and the State Office of General Services all contributed to making the video camera project possible. The City of Rensselaer maintains the Wildlife Viewing Area at Riverfront Park in Rensselaer. In early March of 2004, a new camera, solar panel and battery were installed. Triangle Rentals of Endicott, New York donated Snooper truck rental and operator services that allowed these improvements to be made to the system.


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