DEEP: Bridgeport Peregrine Nest Boxes

Bridgeport Peregrine Nest Boxes

{Peregrine Falcon Head}

Adapted from an article written for an issue of Connecticut Wildlife.
{Installation of a nest box.}
Worker coming down after installing a nest box on the P. T. Barnum Bridge in Bridgeport, CT.

In early October 2000, DEP Wildlife Division biologist, Julie Victoria, and DEP Inland Wetlands Environmental Analyst, Dan Biron, met with Paul Corrente and Chris Malik, Transportation Planners from Connecticut's Department of Transportation (DOT) Environmental Planning Division about placing peregrine falcon nest boxes on bridges. The DOT was particularly interested in the P. T. Barnum Bridge in Bridgeport where a peregrine falcon pair has nested since 1999.

In mid-March 1999, this peregrine pair was frequently seen on the Peoples Bank building in Bridgeport, but nesting was not observed and the pair was not seen in the area after March. Wildlife Division biologists were alerted to the successful nesting attempt of the peregrine pair at the end of June when a peregrine falcon chick was found walking on the ground in a factory parking lot and taken to a veterinarian. The chick, which was healthy and able to fly, was eventually taken to wildlife rehabilitator Marilyn Kappel. A query was sent to local birders asking if anyone knew the location of the peregrine nest. Dennis Varza of Fairfield eventually discovered the nest under Interstate 95 as it spans Bridgeport Harbor. Marilyn released the young bird at the site and it flew to its parents and sibling. Within a few days, both young chicks had flown from the area.

In 2000, this peregrine pair was again active and at least one chick was produced. However, when biologists went to observe the nest and band the chicks in June, a chick was found dead on the bridge abutment below the catwalk where the nest was located. The ill-fated chick may have been blown out of the nest by strong winds.

The DOT spends thousands of dollars per year per bridge to clean off bird feces. However, due to the presence of the peregrines on the P. T. Barnum span, the cleaning of bird feces from the bridge has not been necessary. The peregrine falcons, which prey on other birds, have kept local bird populations down to a minimum. Construction of the new span of the P. T. Barnum Bridge and rehabilitation of the old span has led to concern about the peregrine pair during the breeding season. The old span at this site will be taken down in pieces and rebuilt to widen the highway. The peregrines nested at this site during the construction of the new span and fledged two chicks. To prevent the birds from nesting in their old location or any new location on the old span, new peregrine nest boxes were proposed to be put up in February by DOT contractors, along with the removal of all the catwalks on the old span. The old span will be removed after the chicks fledge this year.

{Close-up photo of a nest box.}
One of the nest boxes that was installed on the P. T. Barnum Bridge in Bridgeport, CT.

Two new boxes were installed in late February 2001 under the P. T. Barnum Bridge. A third box was installed in mid-March, close to the original nesting site. No sooner had the workers from L. G. Defelice Construction finished installing the box on the pier than one of the falcons landed on the perch and appeared to take up residence! It made for a lot of excited construction workers who may have been skeptical about the State installing "falcon condos" for birds that would never use them.