Virginia Peregrine Falcon monitoring and management program: Year 2015 report
The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) was believed to be extirpated as a breeding species in Virginia by the early 1960s. An aggressive restoration program was initiated in 1978 that included the release of 115 captive-reared birds on the Coastal Plain (1978-1985) and 127 birds in the mountains (1985-1993). This program resulted in the first breeding of the modern era in 1982. Since this time, the population has proceeded through a rapid establishment phase followed by a consolidation phase. However, more than 95% of all breeding activity over the past 30 years has occurred on the Coastal Plain with very limited breeding within the historic mountain range. Since 2000 a dedicated translocation program has moved more than 245 birds from eyries on the coast to hack sites in the mountains in an effort to restore the mountain breeding population. Restoration of the breeding population in the mountains continues to be a management priority for the state. In 2015, Virginia supported a known falcon population of 26 breeding pairs including 23 within the Coastal Plain, 1 in the Piedmont and 2 in the mountains. This represents the third consecutive year that the population has exceeded 25 breeding pairs. New breeding territories were documented on a smoke stack within a power station and on a building within an urban area. Four territories that have supported pairs in recent years were not occupied in 2015. The population achieved an overall success rate of 80.7% producing 56 young to banding age. The reproductive rate was 2.15 young/occupied territory which is above the level required for population maintenance. The population continues to benefit from the efforts of a large community of agencies, corporations and individuals. Efforts continued in 2015 to identify breeding adults via field-readable bands to better understand dispersal and demography throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Eighteen adults within Virginia were identified including 10 females and 8 males. Birds varied in age from 2 to 15 years. Of the 14 birds where hatching location could be determined, 9 originated in Virginia, 4 originated in New Jersey and 1 originated in Maryland. Five birds that were banded as nestlings in Virginia were identified on breeding territories in other states including 2 in Pennsylvania and 3 in New Jersey. Efforts to identify marked peregrines should continue since these birds are contributing to our understanding of effective population size and regional management.