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Peregrine Falcons


On this date in 2001, fans of peregrine falcon were ecstatic to learn that Dakota Ace and Goldie’s eggs were beginning to hatch. It was the first time in almost 50 years that the endangered species had nested in North Dakota.

It started in 1990, when two peregrines were spotted near the top of the First Interstate Bank in downtown Fargo. One was a mature female; the other was a juvenile male. The male was banded, but the female wasn’t, indicating she’d been born in the wild – a very rare occurrence.

Starting in 1982, scientists and a number of public and private groups in the Midwest had been working together to learned how to breed the falcons in captivity and then how to successfully release the offspring back into the wild. To many people’s surprise, many of the reintroduced birds opted to live in cities rather than seek traditional habitats. A significant milestone occurred in 1987, when a pair nested on the Multifoods Tower in Minneapolis. Their single fledgling, Maud, was the first peregrine born “in the wild” as a result of the Midwest restoration efforts.

But back to our two falcons on top of the Fargo bank: they appeared to be a pair looking for a nest site, so a nesting tray was quickly installed near the top of the east wall.

Unfortunately, the female departed during the process, and after several weeks, the male also moved on. For the next nine years, a single wild peregrine spent a few days at the bank each May. Many believe it was the original female, now retracing her migration path to the Arctic.

When the Community First National Bank took over the building and mounted new signs, they fortunately took steps to keep the nest tray in place, just in case. In the spring of 2000, they were rewarded by a veritable flock of peregrines looking to establish territories. Three or even four birds simultaneously vied for the nesting tray, and after a few weeks, Fargo had it first pair of bonafide territorial falcons. The male was Dakota Ace, who was released as a fledgling in Sioux Falls in 1997. The female, Goldie, was a juvenile who had hatched the previous year in Omaha.

In a sort of long-term relationship, first-year pairs rarely breed or nest; they bond and establish their territory. It was the following spring that the pair finally started a family – two females and a male. The fledglings were banded before leaving the nest, but they haven’t since been found or identified. Unfortunately, only one in six young falcons survive long enough to establish a territory and breed on its own, but that isn’t to say this pair’s babies didn’t make it.

The following spring, Fargoans were saddened when Goldie didn’t return, but Dakota Ace had a number of females from which to choose a new mate. The one who ultimately won his heart was Frieda, a one year-old from Wisconsin, whose mother was killed in a hailstorm 3 weeks before the babies left their nest; the surviving male parent successfully raised them on his own.

Frieda and Dakota Ace didn’t nest until their second summer together, which was last year. They returned to a new and improved nest outfitted with a web camera sponsored by Prairie Public Broadcasting, Community First Bankshares, Audubon/Dakota, and Conmy Feste Ltd. The pair raised four fledglings: Lewis, Clark, Holly and Dakota.

Unfortunately, Clark either fell or left the nest early and was irreparably injured when he presumably landed on an air conditioning fan that didn’t have protective covering. On a brighter note, Holly has nested near Brandon, Manitoba and has laid two eggs.

This year, Ace and Frieda lost two of their four eggs to high winds, but you can watch them raise their two remaining babies by logging on to "http://www.riverwatchonline.org/" www.riverwatchonline.org .

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm