Rowdy has been the big bird on campus since the University became home to the River Hawks in 1994, but he’s welcoming some smaller feathered friends to the family. Fox Hall’s resident peregrine falcons will be officially brought in to the University family with an adoption ceremony and party on April 22 at 3 p.m. at the Hawk’s Nest. A party band parade, refreshments and well-wishes will welcome the avian family, who will make an appearance via webcam. The birds will also be named at the event following a community contest and poll.
The falcons are adoptive parents themselves. In 2008, the couple’s eggs didn’t hatch. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) officials found a chick struggling to compete for food in a full Lawrence nest and transferred him to Lowell. The falcons took him as their own immediately and successfully raised the chick to maturity.
The pair is one of roughly two dozen nesting sets in the state. University workers discovered the falcons in 2007 and have kept them healthy and housed since then. A special nesting box greets the returning pair each year to keep their chicks safe while letting viewers follow the family drama through a popular webcam. In all, the falcons have raised at least 19 chicks: 15 of their own on Fox Hall; one adopted also on Fox Hall; and at least three from a previous nest off campus.
This year, an upgraded house welcomed the pair back to campus. Mercier Electric & Communications Inc. donated an updated camera to provide avian fans a clearer view of the family. A second camera provided by the campus is outside the house, on the roof of Fox Hall, and lets viewers see the birds coming and going from the nest.
The nesting box and cameras are part of the University’s efforts to help the peregrines thrive. The birds have rebounded nationally from years of dwindling numbers due to pesticide use, but are still endangered in Massachusetts.
Officials from DFW band the chicks’ legs, each year, which helps to track the species’ growth and life patterns. The new box has a side door, which will make accessing the nest for banding or other necessary visits easy.
“The parent falcons usually stay in Lowell year-round,” says Thomas French, assistant director of the Massachusetts DFW's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, who leads banding teams. “Their offspring can normally be found within Eastern Massachusetts. In previous years, some of them have been sighted in beaches and marshes as far north as Plum Island and as far south as Plymouth and Chatham. One was even spotted at Green Airport in Rhode Island.”
The high-flying birds will be excellent additions to the River Hawk flock.