Public asked to help watch for falcon chicks

Early this spring, observations were made of a pair of peregrine falcons that were setting up territory around the Carl E. Stotz Memorial Bridge on Market Street. Lycoming Audubon member Joe Yoder documented the birds’ behavior and monitored them. It then became apparent that they had made a nest.

“We saw incubation posture and found the nest site and, later, we saw chicks,” said Dan Brauning, wildlife diversity chief for the state Game Commission.

There are two chicks in the nest, one male and one female. Both are in great health and soon will be fledging from the nest.

Due to the location of the nest, concern has arisen about the chicks actually being able to fledge out safely. The nest site lies on a pier in the river under the bridge, which is closer to the Williamsport side of the bridge.

“It’s not a great nest site,” Brauning said, which is why this sort of monitoring and, probably later, rescue effort has been organized.

“It’s not a bad location (but) it doesn’t give the young a lot of options when it comes to fledging. They come off that pier (and) they have the river in front of them and if they do not wait long enough for flight strength, they get out there and will end up in the river with no place to land,” he said.

Male chicks will fledge 38 to 40 days after hatching, and females 40 to 45 days.

Leg bands were put on the chicks by Brauning and his crew on June 17 and the young looked very good.

From the time he banded the chicks, he could estimate that they would fledge somewhere between July 2 to 10.

Staff from the Game Commission and Lycoming Audubon Society, as well as other volunteers and nest monitors, will watch for the fledglings throughout that timeframe.

In an effort to see that the young survive and become some of the first chicks since the 1940s to make it in Lycoming County, Brauning is calling for help from the public.

Boaters, people on the Susquehanna RiverWalk and even motorists on the bridge are asked to keep an eye out for the chicks.

“If you see a baby bird in the river, or on the roadway, call the Game Commission right away,” he said.

If at all possible, Brauning said, rescue the birds.

“If you are on the river, rescue it. Put it in a box. It’s too young to hurt you. Then call the Game Commission right away,” he said.

If the birds land on the road or in the river, their recovery will become a critical emergency.

“We are hoping to have some people lined up to monitor and be on site, a few folks on the river in a boat, too. We are just hoping to be in the right spot at the right time.” Brauning said. “Being able to actually see a bird take flight, find out it’s in the river and retrieve it … we are going to try to some degree.”

He is putting up posters at the boat launches just down from the nesting site. They will include information on what to do and who to call if a chick is seen.

Any fledglings seen on the shore should be left alone.

“Mom and dad will take care of it,” he said.

Those who come across, rescue or see a chick that is in need of help should call the peregrine hotline at 435-1998 or the Northcentral Game Commission office at 398-4744.