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Peregrine falcon population holding steady in Adirondacks

November 2, 2016
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

Peregrine falcons, a top predatorial bird, nest high up on cliff-sides around the Adirondacks and are monitored each year by a combination of volunteers and state Department of Environmental Conservation staff. The DEC recently released its annual study of the birds, and found that the population is holding steady.

Falcons nest in what is known as an "eyrie." Spotters use binoculars or spotting scopes to watch the sites to determine if there's a breeding pair, how many hatchlings there are and how many of those hatchlings actually fledge out into the world.

The DEC monitored 26 sites this year, which was more than in 2014 but less than in 2013. Of the 26 sites, 17 were confirmed to be active eyries, and 14 of those sites produced chicks. There were 27 confirmed falcon chicks fledged in the Adirondacks and along Lake Champlain this year.

Article Photos

A peregrine falcon soars through the air in the Adirondacks.
Photo courtesy of NYSDEC

The report goes on to show that falcons produced almost two young birds per breeding pair this year, a slight uptick over the last few years. The most successful recent year was 2010, when 2.5 chicks per breeding pairs were counted.

"The 2016 season experienced an increase in peregrine falcon nesting productivity compared to the 2015 season, but overall production was average," the report says. "Several factors may have contributed to the increased success in comparison to the year prior, one being the low amounts of rainfall when incubation and brooding were taking place. The nesting season also seemed to have been earlier or accelerated this year, possibly due to the mild winter and spring throughout New York State."

Eyrie sites are monitored from early May through August. Due to the location of the nests, DEC has to close certain rock climbing routes from spring often well into summer. Jeremy Haas, co-author of "Adirondack Rock: A Rock Climber's Guide," said the closures don't pose much of an issue.

"The closures definitely have an impact on climbers visiting the cliff, but climbers tend to be well-informed about the closures (through guidebooks, website forums, local climbing gyms and shops) and prepare accordingly," Haas said in an interview this past spring. "I can't think of a single time that a climber has been non-compliant with a cliff closure. Additionally, climbing near territorial birds of prey is really scary.

"Knowing which cliffs are impacted means that I can plan my visits before and after the closure dates," Haas continued. "We have a lot of cliff resources in the Adirondacks, and the closures only impact a few cliffs. Careful monitoring, often done by climbers, can help to open cliffs in a timely matter. Never is a cliff closed for the duration of the season."

According to the report, popular climbing routes were all reopened for the year no later than July 22.

"At active peregrine falcon eyries, the reproductive status of each pair was determined by breeding behavior such as courtship displays, food exchanges between adults, nest exchanges during incubation and brooding, territorial displays and disputes with other avian species, the feeding of young, and vocalizations," according to the DEC report on this year's falcons. "A factor that cannot be ignored is the drastic reduction of staff focusing on the peregrine falcon program and the late start of the technician hired to monitor the eyrie sites. In 2012, a biologist, a fish and wildlife technician, an intern and paid contractors all worked together on monitoring the peregrine falcon sites which lead to much more intense monitoring of each site and allowed each site to be properly monitored.

"Numerous volunteers also contributed to the program, providing large volumes of information. Though the 2016 season yielded average productivity, overall the peregrine falcons have been extremely successful in the Northern Adirondack and Lake Champlain region as well as the rest of the state of New York."

To read the annual report, visit



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