OLYMPIA — A pair of peregrine falcons is raising three chicks this spring in a nesting box perched high on the railing of a Port of Olympia crane.
It marks the eighth straight year that the pair used the southernmost of the two cranes during nesting season, rearing their young amidst the occasional bustle of marine terminal operations.
The number of chicks successfully hatched each year has ranged from zero in 2003, when they didn’t have a nesting box, to four in 2009.
State Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Desimone confirmed last week the presence of at least two chicks approximately one week old. Black Hills Audubon member Whittier Johnson spotted three chicks on Wednesday, including one that was somewhat smaller than the other two, suggesting it had hatched later.
Desimone and Johnson used spotting scopes set up in the Olympia Farmers Market to view into the box in the morning when the adults bring food to the chicks.
The chicks are old enough now to hold their heads up and peer over the edge of the nesting box.
If history is any indicator, the chicks will leave the nest in late June. Roughly 30 percent of all peregrine falcons hatch each year survive to age 1, according to state Fish and Wildlife studies.
The department plans to place identification tags on the chicks in about 10 days. The 2009 offspring were banded, but there’s been no sign of their whereabouts, Desimone said. The state is home to about 150 nest sites in rural and urban areas from Bellingham to Olympia. Not all nest sites are occupied each nesting season.
Peregrine falcons, the world’s fastest flying bird, were pushed to the brink of extinction in the 1970s as pesticides built up in the food chain, causing a fatal thinning of their eggshells. They have been on the recovery road since DDT and other persistent pesticides were banned. The birds were removed from the federal Endangered Species Act list in August 1999 and the state endangered list in April 2002.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org