Sunday, March 17, 2013

Local Bird in Paradise! - 16 Mar 2013

Last August the Oakland Audubon Society and I had wonderful looks at a female Peregrine Falcon at Pt. Mouillee SGA in N. Monroe Co.  I got some wonderful digiscoped images of the bird, and in the process discovered that the bird was banded.

Black "78" over Red "D" on the left leg, and a magenta/purple band on the right leg. These leg bands ID'd her as a 2012 female juvie who was born on May 1 at the BP Plant in Whiting Lake County, Indiana; she was banded on May 21. Her father is Hughes, banded black/green E/09, from the Midwest Generation nest, Waukegan, Cook County, Illinois. Her mother is Nancy, banded black/green 5/*4, born in 2002 at the Midwest Generation nest, Waukegan, Cook County, Illinois. 

This past week I received an e-mail from Pablo Camacho at the Raptors of Costa Rica Foundation

Hello Jerry.
My name is Pablo Camacho, I work in the Raptor of Costa Rica Foundation (, and I could also see this beautiful Peregrine Falcon (purple band on the right leg and black "78" over red "D" on the left leg), here in Costa Rica.

Apparently this little lady has been vacationing at the Iglesia Inmaculada Concepcion Catholic Church de Heredia.  According to Pablo the bird has been hunting pigeons for at least the past 44 days, from the time he first observed her on about January 31.  He was able to get close enough to photograph the bird and verify that the purple band numbering in her right leg matches Midwest Peregrine Database (FWS Band 1687-30263).

A look at the map reveals that the Peregrine Falcon, which locals in Heredia City are now calling "Immaculada" la peregrina, had traveled between 5000 - 6000 km from our our location in SE Michigan to Costa Rica.  This raised two questions: Is this an unusual distance? And, which route did she take?

To answer the first question all I had to do was go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site to find out that Peregrines are one of longest migrants in North America, and that they've been know to travel 25,000 km in a year (15,500 mi).  Incidentally, the term 'peregrine' in Latin means 'wanderer'.  Fuller, et. al. (1998) found that Peregrines migrate an average of 8624 km southward, and 8247 km northward with an average rate of 172 km/d southward and 198 km/d northward.

As for routes, Watts, et. al. (2011) tracked a number of Peregrine Falcons in the Mid-Atlantic States and found that they generally migrated toward the east coast, then across the Gulf of Mexico to wintering grounds in Central America. Ganusevich, et. al. (2004) found that satellite-tracked falcons do not necessarily follow the same migratory path southward and do not necessarily use the same wintering grounds, so its possible that the bird could have moved southward across the Gulf, but choose to follow the coastline back north (see map). Worcester and Ydenberg (2008) examined 16 HMANA sites in North America and found that migration of peregrines follows a west-to-east progression, with west-coast birds migrating earlier than east-coast birds, resulting in a 'wave' of migrating falcons spanning across the country in a SE direction during a very short time in Sep-Oct.  I was able to find some image maps of falcon migration here and here. Additional information regarding Peregrine Falcon migration can be found here.

So, with special thanks to my newest and bestest friend Pablo, we are happy to report good news about a very special bird.


Fuller, M.R., Seegar, W.S., and Schueck, L.S., 1998, Routes and travel rates of migrating Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus and Swainson's Hawks Buteo swainsoni in the Western Hemisphere, J. Avian Biol., 29: 433-440.

Watts, B. D., S. M. Padgett, E. K. Mojica, and B. J. Paxton. 2011. FALCONTRAK: Final Report. Center for Conservation Biology Technical Report Series. CCBTR-11-07. College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. 33 pp.

Ganusevich, S.A., Maechtle, T.L., Seegar, W.S., Yates, M.A, McGrady, M.J., Fuller, M., Shueck, L., Autumn migration and wintering areas of Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus nesting on the Kola Peninsula, northern Russia, 2004, Ibis, 146, 291-297.

Worcester, R., Ydenberg, R., Cross-continental Pattern in the Timing of Southward Peregrine Falcon Migration in North America, 2008, J. Raptor Research, 42(1), 000-000.

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