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Peregrine falcons lose their chicks

May 15, 2023 | Grant Schulte | environment, falcons, North Omaha

falcon chicks

Four peregrine falcon chicks hatched last week in the nesting box at OPPD’s North Omaha Station, but all four died within days of hatching. The cause is unknown.

The first chick died Friday. On Saturday morning, the chicks’ mother,  Clark, removed the body of another chick from the nest. She attempted to feed the remaining two chicks during the day Saturday, but by Sunday morning, both were gone.

The cause of death is unclear, although some wildlife experts speculated that the chicks’ parents may have unintentionally fed them a bird infected with a parasite or virus. The weather hasn’t been unusually cold or hot recently, and another common cause of falcon chick deaths, a lack of food, most likely wasn’t a factor in this case.

High mortality rate for falcon chicks

The mortality rate for peregrine falcon chicks is fairly high in the wild, with roughly 60% not making it to adulthood for a variety of reasons, said Chris Vrtiska, a wildlife natural resource specialist at OPPD. That percentage is an average. In some cases, all chicks may survive, but in others, they may all perish.

“It’s not out of the ordinary,” Vrtiska said.

Falcon chicks born at North Omaha Station have died before. Last year, Clark laid four eggs in March, but only two of the four hatchlings survived.

Jerry Toll, a licensed master raptor bander who has banded previous falcon chicks at North Omaha Station, said it’s possible, though unlikely, that Clark could lay more eggs this year.

The chicks declined quickly, and if anyone had tried to intervene and the chicks had survived, they likely would not have been able to return to the wild.

“They can be hand-reared by humans, but they’d likely have to remain in captivity the rest of their lives,” he said.

The falcons are a bit like celebrities at OPPD, and their live webcam has drawn viewers from around the world. A Facebook page, Peregrine Falcons Lincoln Ne, follows their activities, along with those of other raptors in the region.

Clark’s longtime home

Observers believe Clark first made her home in the OPPD nest box in 2015, eventually hatching two chicks with a mate.

Because of her size, she was thought to be male when she was banded in Lincoln with her brother (and current mate), Lewis. Hence, the name Clark.

Peregrine falcons take about 33 days to hatch. The birds of prey typically lay up to four eggs each year. New chicks usually hatch in the spring or summer, then feed and grow until they’re able to take their first steps and flights beyond the box.

A long lineage

Last year, Clark laid four eggs. Two of the four chicks survived, sisters Thunder and Lightning. The pair also raised four chicks in 2021, three male falcons – Watt, Ohm and Ampere – and a female falcon, Volta. The pair had three chicks in 2020, daughters Storm and Flicker and a son, Flash.

Clark and Lewis, born in 2012, are part of a large and long line of peregrine falcons that originated from a pair that lived at the State Capitol in Lincoln.

New falcons appeared at the Capitol this year. There are also pairs at WoodmenLife Tower in downtown Omaha and an Evergy power plant in Kansas.

OPPD Digital Channel Specialist Lindsey Liekhus contributed to this report.


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About Grant Schulte

Grant Schulte joined OPPD as a content generalist in 2022. He is a former reporter for The Associated Press, where he covered the Nebraska Legislature, state politics and other news for a global audience. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and a proud Hawkeye. In his free time he enjoys running, reading, spending time with his wife, and all things aviation.

View all posts by Grant Schulte >

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