Saturday, June 6, 2009

They’re Bridge Chicks, and 5 Join the Falcon Flock by Sewell Chan - City Room Blog -

Read original...

Five peregrine falcon chicks have been hatched in recent weeks in nests atop the towers of the Verrazano-Narrows, Throgs Neck and Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridges, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced on Thursday.

Photo caption: Three chicks — two female and a male — were born at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

The Verrazano-Narrows falcons were two females and a male, while the Throgs Neck and Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges each had a male. The Throgs Neck chick hatched four weeks ago, and the other four hatched three weeks ago.

This week, a state volunteer wildlife expert placed metal bands around the chicks’ feet, with numbers to identify and track the birds as they grow and reproduce. Peregrine falcons are still on the state endangered species list, although they are no longer on the federal list.

Urban falcons typically nest atop bridges, church steeples and high-rise buildings, because the high locations enable them to hunt prey, including pigeons and small birds. In 2008, the State Department of Environmental Conservation documented 67 pairs of peregrine falcons living in New York City.

M.T.A. Bridges and Tunnels has taken steps to accommodate the birds. At the Throgs Neck, the peregrine nesting box was moved from the 360-foot Queens tower to the Bronx tower during a 2007 painting project. “We have a good relationship with the falcons because we’re like absentee landlords,” said Ray Higgins, the maintenance superintendent at the bridge, said in a statement. “We set them up with a nice place to live and then try not to bother them.”

Photo caption: A male chick was born atop the Throgs Neck Bridge four weeks ago.

William McCann, a maintenance superintendent whom M.T.A. Bridges and Tunnels called “the keeper of the nest at the Verrazano,” said in a statement, “The falcons have been on this bridge longer than I have, and I’ve been here 28 years.”

Mr. McCann’s main role, when it comes to the birds, is simply to keep bridge maintenance activities and make sure the birds are left alone.

The falcons’ original box nest was underneath the lower-level roadway until 2000, when a painting project began and containment shrouds were put up. Workers responded by installing two boxes — one atop the Brooklyn tower, the other atop the Brooklyn pedestal. The falcons chose the former, and have returned each mating season.

Photo caption: A male chick was born at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.

At the Marine Parkway bridge, the nesting box is located 215-feet above the water, on the Rockaway side of the bridge, inside a World War II-era gun turret.

“Next year they’ll get an upgrade because the wood inside the original box is badly split and it is dangerous for the chicks,” said Carlton Cyrus, the maintenance superintendent for the span.

The birds grow quickly. They are expected to start flying from atop the bridge towers in the next two weeks, “and by July will leave for unknown destinations,” the authority said.