Peregrine Falcon Makes Comeback in Massachusetts

The peregrine falcon can dive more than 200 miles per hour to capture its prey - and it's making a remarkable comeback in Massachusetts, including over the Connecticut River in Chicopee.

It may seem an unlikely location and alliance - the Massachusetts Department of Transportation teams up with Massachusetts Wildlife to band four Peregrine chicks born 2 weeks ago in their box house under the Massachusetts Turnpike.

"We are working with DOT, because from our point of view, a Fish and wildlife point of view, we are working on an endangered species," said Dr. Thomas French. "From their point of view, they get free maintenance on their bridge. Because we are keeping the pigeons from corroding the metal on the joints on the bridge."

Friday, they set out on a mission to band baby chicks for tracking and research.

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"More than one million birds a year are banded," said French. "And every band has a unique number."

Their natural habitat is high up on cliffs, but they mostly like bridges and tall buildings here in Massachusetts. From 1,000 feet in the sky, they can dive 200 mph to capture prey.

They have a strict diet - birds only.

"Occasionally a bat, but it eats anything that's in the air flying," explained French. "It's so fast, it's evolved into the fastest flying bird. One of the things that kills them is striking objects that are too big and heavy. They cannot turn quickly, so if they are chasing a pigeon, and the pigeon does a dodge and there is a building on the other side, the peregrine can strike the building and killed."

Since the peregrine's reintroduction in the early 1980s, we now have more than 35 breeding pairs. Coincidentally, the birds disappeared from Massachusetts in 1955 - about the same time the idea for this bridge was first put on paper.

More than 60 years later, you can watch some New England falcons live on camera. Click here to see the feed from UMass Amherst. Falcons at UMass Lowell can be seen here, and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island has a feed in Providence here.

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