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Madison's peregrine falcon population increases by 4
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Madison's peregrine falcon population increases by 4


Terra (from left), April, Nelson and Verde emerge after hatching in a box high above a Madison Gas and Electric power plant.

Four peregrine falcons hatched in a box high above a Madison Gas and Electric power plant have been named in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The falcons, which hatched in May, have been named April, the month Earth Day is celebrated each year; Nelson, to honor Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator; Terra, a word that means “earth” or “land” in several languages; and Verde, which translates to “green” in several languages.

For more than 20 years, MGE has worked to support the recovery of the peregrine falcon population, which was nearly wiped out in the 1960s by the insecticide DDT.

The effort began in 1999, when an MGE employee and his son built the original nesting box on a steam stack at the Blount Generating Station on the Isthmus east of the Capitol. The stacks presented an ideal location, as the birds prefer to build their nests in high places.

“This is a strong part of our environmental stewardship, and trying to promote the species and peregrines are important for that,” MGE spokeswoman Kaya Freiman said.

Greg Septon, who has directed peregrine falcon recovery efforts throughout Wisconsin for 27 years and has worked with MGE on the project since 2009, placed tracking bands on the fledglings shortly after they hatched.

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“It’s as much of a people program as much as it’s a wildlife recovery program,” he said. With their abundance of tall structures, urban environments have been key to restoring the peregrine population, which is now self-sustaining, in contrast to the years between 1965 and 1987, when nearly no birds lived in the state.

Over more than 30 years, man-made nesting sites have played a crucial role in peregrine recovery in Wisconsin, with “nearly 50% of all the young produced at these sites annually,” Septon said.

Banding plays an essential role in helping researchers track peregrines’ migration, lifespan, living habits and reproduction rates through recovery after the birds die or if images of the bands are captured on cameras.

With 50% to 70% of young peregrine falcons dying within their first year, authorities are able to track deaths and other incidents using a federal bird banding registry.

“There is no one animal that is more important than another, but these birds became endangered,” Septon said. Since 2009, 46 falcons have hatched at MGE. In 2019, there was a known total of 110 young falcons hatched statewide at 37 successful nest sites.

Photos: Aerial views of Madison from 1907 to today

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