Peregrine falcons held their own in New Jersey last year, with 32 active nests compared to 30 the year before, according to the New Jersey Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, or ENSP.
Peregrines nest high on natural cliffs or manmade structures such as buildings, towers and bridges, according to the Peregrine Falcon Research and Management Program report released Wednesday by the ENSP and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
Locally, successful nests were located at the soon-to-be Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, the former Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Drag Island in Great Egg Harbor Bay, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Stone Harbor and the Marmora and Tuckahoe wildlife management areas, the report said.
Nest success improved slightly, with 22 pairs producing 52 young, compared with 20 pairs producing 47 young in 2016.
At Atlantic Club, the 19-year-old female that has raised chicks there most of her life again fostered a chick given to her by biologists. She is too old to lay her own eggs, but with the help of her mate is still strong enough to feed a hatchling and help it fledge, according to state biologists.
It was the third year she fostered a chick taken from a nest that produced too many to easily feed. Females generally stop being able to reproduce at about age 15 or 16, ENSP biologist Kathleen Clark has said.
Most pairs nested on towers and buildings in 2017, according to the report, where nest success was better. The six pairs that nested on natural cliffs in northeastern New Jersey had “dismal success,” the report said. They only fledged two chicks.
A nest site used since 1975 at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Oceanville, Galloway Township, was removed by the ENSP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service late last year. It was on a tower that needed repair, and refuge staff believed it was deterring use of nearby impoundments by migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.
So a new site was found nearby, and NJ Fish & Wildlife biologists installed a nestbox there. It is hoped the nesting pair at Forsythe will find it, the report said.
Life remained tough and competitive for the peregrines.
Young died at fledging at the Hard Rock site, where a new nest box was installed, and at the Route 3 Bridge in Hackensack.
Rain caused the death of all three newly hatched nestlings at a nest on an osprey platform in the Ocean City marsh, and two hatchlings died in their nest at the Union County Court House when an intruder female peregrine chased their mother away and laid her own eggs.
Across all sites, nest success was 69 percent and 1.72 young per active site.
“The tower and building nest sites are the consistent core of the population in NJ, without which the population would fluctuate widely year to year,” the report said. “Management of nest sites, mainly to provide safe, undisturbed nesting environments for the birds, continues to be the predominant factor for a stable and productive population.”
The report said managers of buildings are key partners in improving nest sites and expanding the population.