Advertisement

Feds bringing falcons back to Harpers Ferry

April 04, 2001

Feds bringing falcons back to Harpers Ferry



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - National Park Service officials have announced an effort to reintroduce a unique, fast-flying breed of falcon to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Peregrine falcons, which can dive at high speeds to catch their prey, were last seen nesting in Harpers Ferry in the 1940s. In the 1960s, peregrine falcon populations in the United States began declining rapidly, and wildlife experts believe the use of DDT was part of the reason, according to park spokeswoman Marsha Starkey.

But the peregrine falcon has recently been removed from the federal endangered species list, although it is still listed as a state endangered species in Virginia and Maryland and is classified as a rare species in West Virginia.

Working with the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and two other agencies, park officials will try to return peregrine falcons to the park.

Advertisement

This year and next year, park officials and officials from the College of William and Mary plan to release from six to eight juvenile falcons at a site on Maryland Heights, a rocky outcrop that overlooks the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

The first six to eight falcons will be taken from nesting sites in Virginia and Maryland and brought to the park late next month, Starkey said. The falcons will be placed in protective boxes on the outcrop, where they will be fed regularly by park workers, according to Starkey. The boxes will be opened when the birds are ready for flight.

It is hoped that several falcons will "imprint" on the site and return to Maryland Heights in two to three years to breed, Starkey said.

Each year, two falcons will be fitted with miniature transmitters to monitor their migration between breeding and wintering ranges, according to Starkey. The public will be able to monitor the migration of the falcons by checking the park's Web site at www.nps.gov/hafe.

The peregrine falcon is about the size of a crow, and has a wingspan of up to 3 feet. They fly at high altitudes and often dive at high speeds for other birds, such as pigeons, according to the park's Web site.

"They're so quick, and they're so fast, and they're eyesight is so keen. It's just amazing," Starkey said.

A public presentation about the park's peregrine falcon restoration project will be held Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry. It is expected that two peregrine falcons will be brought to the presentation, Starkey said.

The two other agencies working on the project are the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|