Peregrine Falcon Data 2004: "Zoe"
Under the cloak of secrecy a pair of peregrine falcons adopted an Osprey Platform as a nesting site. Since the late eighties' a pair of osprey has return to their nest box to raise their young. Since Spring of 2002 the pair have been evicting wintering Peregrines that have been using the platform as a vantage point and roost. (Un)fortunately the Osprey pair did not return this year for unknown reasons. The wintering Peregrine where not driven off and they made their time-share a home. As of 6/11/04 two downy chicks can be seen in the nest box. They are between 2 to 3 weeks of age.
On Monday 6/21/04 the chicks where banded by Christopher Nadareski, Wildlife Biologist for NYC DEP and NY Peregrine Specialist. A little late in the developmental stages to a point where one flew from the nest and had to be retrieved. Each was sexed and given a USGS band and a colored band. From the photo below you can see they had a pale male (black/green band) and dark female (black/red band). You can see the size difference between the sexes.
The female was observed with a radio-transmitter, or PTT (Platform Transmitter Terminal), in MNSA on Nov. 16th 2001 and has been returning since. This year with her nesting we were able to achieve closer observations to the point of recording the colored band numbers, *8/5. After conducting an internet search I was fortunate to track her down to Virginia. I emailed a photo with a description to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' FalconTrak project. I was contacted by Ray Fernald, Manager of Nongame and Environmental Programs, who was very happy to hear of good news of one of the first falcons of the project; started in 2001. This is the background information he shared: “Zoe” hatched on Metompkin Island, Eastern Shore of Virginia in 2001. She was transferred to the Hawksbill Mountain hack site in Shenandoah National Park in June, and released. Her transmitter failed in December 2001, though her short months worth of telemetry had her located at that time near her present location, here in the Hempstead Estuary System.
On July 12th 2004 Shawn Padgett from The Center for Conservation Biology, a research and education organization within the Department of Biology at the College of William & Mary, flew up from Virginia to attempt a recapture of Zoe to remove the transmitter. With the help of Christopher Nadareski, and John Zarudsky Conservation Biologist for TOH, we ventured in our float bottom skiff just as the sun rose in the eastern sky at 6:00am in hopes to successfully recover the PTT. As we rounded the point to enter the cove where the platform was we were slightly discouraged to see no one was home. We took this opportunity to examine the nest site for prey remains. Scattered around the base of the platform were the remains of terns; wings, legs and tail feathers. In the nest the remains of terns, pigeons, shorebirds and a Green-winged Teal. Also in the nest were pigeon fancier bands, from birds that will never return to the coop. Then from the west towards the Oceanside Landfill, a familiar shape and call came in screaming, the lady of the house had returned. Shawn and Chris took no time as they prepared the trap to recapture her. With a Barred Owl specimen on loan, they place a leather ring with loops of fishing line on top of its head like a crown. Attached to the crown hung a weight which would force Zoe down to the ground so she could be freed from the PTT and continue her life untethered. Not factored into the equation was the presence of terns with nestlings. The parent terns gave her a hard time the entire time she was attempting to return to the platform to chase the fake owl. In the end the terns successfully chased the predator from their nesting grounds prevent us, disappointed biologists, the possibility of recapture We retrieved the decoy and prepared to depart with only the knowledge that she was confirmed as in the area and with the hope of returning early next year to try again when she would be a little more territorial around the nest site.
I would like to thank Shawn for taking the time to fly to the Island to investigate this new neighbor to the MNSA, Ray for posting an excellent web update with mapping information, and Chris for his assistance in the banding of the 2 chicks and helping in the recapture attempt. It is always a good feeling to find dedicated individuals to the field of wildlife biology and to the monitoring of this elegant bird of prey.
Part 2: The Legend Continues 2005
With the new year brings new awareness and new changes in, what we hope will be, in Zoe's favor. During the late Fall and early Winter months Shawn Padgett had emailed some photos of Falcon boxes used in Virginia. Like "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" with these photos we were able to modify the Osprey platform into a fine looking Peregrine box. On a very foggy January morning, 1/13/05, John Zarudsky and the return of Chris Nadareski, leave the west marina to head out towards the platform. With poor visibility it was a slow and cautious trip. After reaching the site during a moon tide they were able to unload the cargo and equipment from the skiff only a few feet from the platform. Salvaging a derelict windboard, they used the board as a floating work bench. Once the equipment was secured John headed across the boat channel to pick up two more workers Bill Overton and myself from the MNSA. The base of the platform was reinforced to support the new structure. Once the base was stable enough we carried the new shelter to the top for placement. Like two circus performers Chris and I carefully got the heavy box to the top. The opening was faced roughly in a south eastern direction following historical data. Chris secured the box to the platform with screws and hefty bolts for a lock tight structure. After checking for sharp edges and possible splinters, two 5 gal pails of pea gravel were dumped into the box to act a bedding material. Since peregrines do not make a branch and twig nest, instead naturally nesting along cliff edges, they "scrape" a depression to lay their eggs in. To finish off the structure a few perches were nailed to the platform. And with this, the first Hempstead Estuary System Peregrine "Penthouse" was complete. We hope and pray they return to their new improved home. The pair have been seen on a regular basis, as usual this winter.
Special thanks to the carpenters at Hanse Ave., the department's "secret workshop" for constructing the box and to Chris Nadareski for helping in the on site assembly.
On 3/18 John Z. added a predator guard to the Peregrine Box. The pair was displaced to the East Channel Platform until the 3/24 before returning.
A visit to the peregrine box by John Z. on 4/18 discovered that Zoe is sitting on 4 eggs in her new home.
Zoe’s Second Brood 6/1/2005
Well today it was Zoe’s turn for nest inspection by Chris Nadareski, She was just one of many pairs on Long Island as well as the state that are gradually checked during the hatching season. We knew prior that she was sitting on 4 eggs and when we looked in the box there were 4 downy chicks screaming in surprise. Through size and development we determined that there were 3 girls and a boy approximately 21-25 days old. The banding process was quick and painless, for at least the chicks.
This close encounter also confirmed our suspicions that Zoe’s tell-tale transmitter was no longer attached to her. From brief sightings from the winter as far back as January, the long antenna seemed to be absent from her back, but from the distance could not be confirmed.
From a site survey of bird carcasses, the parents have been bringing in a majority of sandpipers: Dunlin, Sanderlings, and a Willet were the easiest to recognize. Others included: Blue Jays, pigeons, and terns. I’m curious just how coincidental, the shorebird migration coincides with Peregrine hatching here along the coast.
During this year’s visit we had a few addition members of the department take part in this exciting experience. They had the opportunity to observe and participate in the examination of the chicks and the banding process for this endangered species.
Second Visit 6/14/2005
I kayaked out to the box on a steamy late Tues afternoon and the four chicks look ready to fledge at any time, if they haven't already.
Causing Trouble 8/2/05
While trying to count morning shorebirds, one of the Peregrine fledglings thought it very funny to buzz the mudflats, spooking everyone and their mother into the air.
Zoe 2006: Battle of the Sexes
Family 3 6/2/2006
Today Zoe her annual inspection by Chris Nadareski, checking and banding of her new family for 2006. This year, just as last year, she reared 4 chicks. But this time the sexes were equal. In one corner 2 healthy males and in the second corner 2 healthy and robust females. Through developmental appearance it was estimated they were roughly 41/2 to 5 weeks old.
This years food supply was made up of Black-belled Plover, Dunlin, Sanderlings, Willet, Dowitcher, Green-winged Teal, Northern Flicker, pigeons and Terns of the recognizable parts.
Zoe 2007: Oh Boy(s)
How’s Zoe?, Peregrine Banding ‘07
On the afternoon of 5/24 Kim and Mike were picked up from MNSA and ferried over to assist in the data collecting and observation of Zoe and her family. This year she produced three male chicks, as sexed by Chris Nadareski, from the DEP. The age of the chicks were estimated to be 2 weeks of age, which goes along with our physical observations, since the first day where two birds were visible was back on 5/11. The chicks appeared healthy and well feed. Many of the bird remains scattered around included: Blue Jays, Common Terns, Willets, and Rock Pigeons.
This year, Zoe has a new neighbor in the West Bay. This box put up last Dec. in response to a second pair seen around the area. The female of this pair is also banded, (L/3), She and her mate have been seen in the area since 2004, this was their first recorded nesting.
2008 Mysterious Death?
Senior Biologist John Z, went to inspect Zoe’s nesting platform on 3/24. He observed Zoe sitting in the platform on a single egg. Under closer investigation he stumbled upon a dead peregrine at the base of the platform, presuming the male. The bird appeared under-weight but no visible signs of trauma. The bird was taken for farther study. Observations on the platform prior: 3/11(2), 3/14(2). Observations after: 3/26 (1 on platform 10:12a), 3/26 (1 on ground 4:10p), 3/26 (1 on platform 4:41p). The bird was perhaps the mate of Zoe or a intruder that was not healthy enough evade harassment by the pair. Close observation will continue.
A new update on the status of or neighbor across the bay. Latest observations of Zoe’s platform have a 2nd peregrine on the box with Zoe. On 4/9 I received a communication from the Senior Field Biologist, John Z., that he has seen a second peregrine on the box with Zoe in the platform. Speculation on the identity of this new peregrine in light of a peregrine body found dead under the platform last month are circulating. Possibilities floating around are: A weak intruder killed by Zoe’s mate?, a past offspring returning to the nest in a weakened state?, a new male or past offspring returning to the platform to claim a new territory or assist Zoe and her new brood; if in fact she was successful.
On 5/21 Chris Nadareski, with members from my department went out to band and chicks for Zoe and a second marsh nest site with a banded female with a black L over a green 3, L/3. Zoe’s platform was in the same condition when she was first observed back on 3/24. The box held one egg; Chris noted it was sun bleached. During the investigation, Zoe and a second bird were flying over the box, but high not defending the platform.
2009 Zoe Update
Zoe has found a new partner for 2009 and he appears to be banded. Four eggs were observed on 3/24/09. At banding time in early June two chicks were found and healthy one unhatched egg and the fourth missing.
2010 Zoe Update
on 3/25/10 2 eggs were being incubating. This year only two eggs were laid and hatched. On Banding day the last week in May we were able to get some good observations of the pair and identify the male's band numbers. This new male bird was banded in local NY: 59/R blk/grn.
2011 Zoe Update
On Banding Day 5/25/11, Zoe's family consisted of 3 females and a lone male.
The introduction of the New Cam System to Zoe's box was installed in November. The first images from the cam include:
2012 Zoe Update
On June 1st all four chicks were banded. Their were 2 males and 2 females. This was the first season we have a cam to watch the life cycle of these marsh nesting peregrines and found out some interesting habits and food sources these introduced birds have different from there urban and cliffside kin.
Zoe has a new male this year a NY born bird 26/W blk/grn. This is her 3rd known mate since her arrive to Oceanside.
Zoe's family produced 4 eggs, 4 hatched and all fledged.
Zoe's family produced 4 eggs, 3 hatched and all fledged.
Zoe's family produced 4 eggs, 2 hatched and all fledged.
Zoe's family produced 4 eggs, 1 hatched and all fledged. From the trend over the last few years Zoe's reproductive abilities have been declining as she adds years to your life. Born in 2001, this makes her 15 years old. Depending on which website you use and which set of birds and where, the average life span of Peregrines' is around 13. Some make the minimum mark as low as 7 years and with the maximum from a captive bird being 25. Little did we know this was going to be her last clutch in Oceanside.
2017 New Blood
After some territorial activity in February and March a new matriarch had won the privilege to nest in this apparent hot spot for Peregrine falcons. The new female is a banded bird from Pennsylvania, 14/BR. She was banded as a chick on 5/26/2015. Peregrines begin breeding within 2-4 years. She has an unbanded mate. She produced 3 eggs, of which 3 hatched and fledged. Unfortunate news reached us later in the year that Zoe's bands have been identified. Her body was recovered from St. Agnes Roman Catholic Cathedral in Rockville Centre NY, just a couple miles north of us.
14/BR's family produced 4 eggs, 3 hatched and all fledged. On 5/20/2018 our camera system failed and we were unable to visually confirm the chicks to fledglings but on banding day all 3 flew from the nest on the approach, birds were not banded this year.
Courtship for this pair starts in January, with the food offering and grovelling by the male. The female trots around the nest box picking at the gravel and cleaning the debris from the pebbles until she finds a spot to create her nesting depression. On 3/16/19 the 1st egg was laid beginning the nesting season. The 2nd egg was laid on 3/19 and the 3rd on 3/21 with the 1st egg rolled out of the depression and put to the side and rolled back in on the 3/22. On 3/24 a 4th egg was laid completing the clutch. Both male and female share incubation chores with the bulk of the time being done by the larger female to accommodate coverage for all the eggs. The male would return with food and the exchange of service will allow the female time to eat while the male babysat. The process will continue up to 4/24 with the 1st egg hatching. The 2nd and 3rd hatched out on 4/25 and the 4th on 4/26. This will be the first time the female, 14/BR, successfully hatched out all 4 eggs. The first bird fledged before band 6/05 and the nest 3 in the following days before they were able to be banded.
The Year of Covid-19. Another successful year for 14/BR 4 eggs produced, hatched and fledged. The very mild winter allowed the couple to start their nesting season very early, the earliest for this site, with the first egg being laid 3/6/2020. The next eggs were laid a couple days apart: 3/8, 3/10, and the final on 3/13. The male did a great job providing food and sharing the incubation responsibilities leading to the first hatch date on 4/14/2020 where 3 eggs hatched all at the same time and the 4th hatching on 4/17. With 3 new mouths to feed at the same time both parents would share the hunting job taking turns after a few days when they realized the male wasn't bring enough food back fast enough. All 4 birds fledged by 6/11/2020, a few days before there scheduled banding day.
The new female BD/54 has since visited the box regularly and received offerings from the male but refuses to sit on the eggs making the males job that much more difficult.
The report is back on the identity of the new female.
Species: PEREGRINE FALCON
Band #: 1947-31818, Aux. # BD/54 Black/Green
Age: of Bird WAS TOO YOUNG TO FLY WHEN BANDED IN 2017
Location: Sea Isle City, Cape May County, NJ
"Thanks for reporting your sighting of BD/54 to the Bird Banding Lab! Sounds like you saw some rough action out there! We always welcome sightings of our banded peregrines, and really appreciate your report.
We banded BD/54 as a nestling in 2017 at a coastal marsh tower in Sea Isle City, Cape May County, NJ. Interestingly, her mother was 59/AW, banded in 2011 at the George Washington Bridge. Her father was also a 2011 bird, from nearby Stone Harbor.
Thank you again!"
Kathleen Clark, CWB
NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Endangered & Nongame Species Program
Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area