Event Helps Grow State's Peregrine Population

2023 falcon chick banding at Fox Hall Image by Joson Images
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Biologist Chalis Bird, left, holds a female peregrine falcon chick, while Wildlife Technician Derek McDermott holds a male chick. Both hatched at UMass Lowell earlier this spring. The birds sport new ID tags that will help state biologists study them throughout their lifespan.


Media contacts: Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu and Nancy Cicco, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

Donning hard hats and holding Styrofoam pool noodles to keep a protective mother peregrine falcon at bay, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife biologists on Thursday, May 25, retrieved two falcon chicks hatched in a nest box at UMass Lowell, to get a look at the birds and assess their health. 

Both chicks – a male and female – are doing well, according to officials. Amid a gathering of UMass Lowell staff, volunteers and other guests, including state Rep. Rodney Elliott, wildlife biologists fitted each bird with a metal ID tag that will allow officials to track the chicks over their lifespan. 

Hatched about three weeks ago in the nest box atop the university’s Fox Hall, the chicks will grow on campus until early August, when they will fledge the nest, according to Wildlife Biologist Chalis Bird, who led the event. 

“Then they will disperse to find their own identity. Some chicks move out of the state, up to Quebec, and some head south as well,” she said.

Birds raised at the university have gone on to establish other nests in Lowell, Concord, Leominster and Newburyport, Massachusetts, and as far away as Nashua, New Hampshire; Cape May, New Jersey; and Providence, Rhode Island.

A pair of the majestic peregrines has called Fox Hall home since at least 2007 when they were discovered on the building’s roof by UMass Lowell employees. Working with wildlife officials, the university constructed the nest box to provide the birds with shelter from the elements – peregrines often lay their eggs out in the open – helping the falcons to thrive for future generations. 

At UMass Lowell, the falcons, also known as “duck hawks,” are real-life River Hawks – the namesake of the university’s athletic teams. Over the past 15 years, more than 25 peregrine chicks have hatched atop of Fox Hall, the city’s tallest building. Still other chicks have been recovered from other sites and fostered in the nesting box at the university, before fledging from campus. 

The UMass Lowell initiative is growing the local peregrine population. Previously an endangered species, the federally protected falcons are listed in Massachusetts as birds “of special concern.” Today, nearly 50 nesting pairs have been identified across the Bay State, according to wildlife officials. 

Clocked at dive-flight speeds of more than 240 mph, the birds of prey are monitored via webcam at www.uml.edu/falcons, which allows the public to follow them. Area schoolteachers often use the birds’ story to help educate children about wildlife.