A future for falcons

As Great River Energy planned to demolish a power plant, employees found a way to preserve the site’s beloved falcons – and set an example that could have lasting effects on peregrine falcon populations.

A pair of peregrine falcons returned in March to a Great River Energy facility location in Elk River and accepted their newly relocated nest box. Brooklyn, the male, returned to the site for a sixth year and Breezy, the female, for a third. The pair produced four eggs, all of which successfully fledged from the nesting box. Three of the eyasses (young falcons) hatched May 6 and the fourth on May 7.

Kevin Hodgson, leader, transmission construction and maintenance, is pictured on banding day.

The falcons’ successful reproduction was a special achievement due to the relocation of their nest box. Great River Energy began decommissioning the Elk River Energy Recovery Station in late 2019 and many wondered what would happen with the nesting peregrine falcons who have long made the plant their home. A group of Great River Energy employees weighed various options, consulted with the Raptor Resource Project and developed a solution.

The nest box was relocated in early 2020 to a platform atop the cooperative’s native prairie, adjacent to the power plant.

“We’re not aware of a transfer project like this being successful,” said John Howe, executive director at the Raptor Resource Project. “It was really neat to see that innovation and then the success. It was so exciting to be a part of the project.”

Representatives from the Raptor Resource Project assisted Great River Energy employees with the banding and bird identification on May 28. One female eyass was named Kay and three male eyasses were named Hodgson, Falcor 2 and Kerby. Their names and band numbers are recorded and tracked for future use in the Midwest Peregrine Society Database. All four of the young falcons fledged from the nesting box in June.

The banding process was slightly different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only essential helpers were on site and all wore masks and gloves when handling the falcons—both for the safety of the birds and the people involved.

Great River Energy, with the help of an Eagle Scout and the Raptor Resource Project, first installed the nesting box in 2006. Since then, 42 young falcons have fledged from the Elk River location.

Watch this video which highlights the project: