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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 250 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 2020, Virginia supported a known falcon population of 32 breeding pairs including 26 within the Coastal Plain, 3 in the Piedmont and 3 in the mountains. This is the highest population recorded in the state and represents the third consecutive year that the population has exceeded 30 breeding pairs. New pairs were discovered on Jump Mountain and in an abandoned quarry along the Occoquan River. The 2020 breeding season was the second most productive in the state’s history producing 58 young. A minimum of 89 eggs were laid with at least 62 hatching. Only 4 (6.5%) of the 62 hatchlings did not survive to banding age. The reproductive rate was 1.87 young/occupied territory. Of 18 clutches that were followed completely from laying to fledging, 46 of 70 (65.7%) of eggs hatched and 44 of 46 (95.6%) of young survived to banding age. Four young were known to have problems after fledging including 3 birds that were recovered on the ground in Norfolk, Richmond and Reston and were taken for rehab. A male that was hacked from Franklin Cliffs was picked up in Timberville and later died. Efforts continued in 2020 to identify breeding adults via field-readable bands to better understand dispersal and demography throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The banding status of 55 (85.9%) of the 64 adult peregrines known within the breeding population was determined. Fourteen (25.5%) of the 55 birds were unbanded. The alpha-numerics were read for 34 adults and of these the USGS bands have been recorded for 31. Of the banded birds where state of origin could be determined, 26 were from VA, 5 from MD, 2 from NJ, 1 from DE and 1 from PA. Birds ranged in age from 2 to 19 years old. During the 2020 season, 3 young falcons (all males) were translocated to Shenandoah National Park and hacked. Birds were released on 13 June, 2020 and were fine on release. Six addled falcon eggs were recovered during the 2020 season from 4 eyries.


Virginia Peregrine Falcon