Virginia peregrine falcon monitoring and management program: Year 2018 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 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 2018, Virginia supported a known falcon population of 32 breeding pairs including 28 within the Coastal Plain, 1 in the Piedmont and 3 in the mountains. This is the highest population ever recorded in the state and represents the sixth consecutive year that the population has exceeded 25 breeding pairs. A new breeding territory was documented on a crane within the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Long-time territories including the Norris Bridge and the Highrise Bridge (I-64) were vacant in 2018. A single adult male was observed on the I-295 bridge across the James River. 2018 was a mixed breeding year with a relatively low hatching rate (67%, 45 of 67 eggs hatched) and no losses before banding. Three young were known to be lost after fledging. Of 17 clutches that were followed completely from laying to fledging, 36 of 57 (63%) eggs hatched and 36 of 36 (100%) young survived to banding age. The reproductive rate (1.25 young/occupied territory) was considerably lower than in recent years. Efforts continued in 2018 to identify breeding adults via field-readable bands to better understand dispersal and demography throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The banding status of 46 (73%) of the 64 adult peregrines known within the breeding population was determined. Thirteen (28%) of the 46 birds were unbanded. The alpha-numerics were read for 29 adults and of these the USGS bands have been recorded for 27. Of the banded birds where state of origin could be determined, 22 were from VA, 3 were from NJ, 4 were from MD and 1 was from PA. The natal territories were determined for 27 adults. Birds ranged in age from 3 to 18 years old. Bands for 9 additional falcons were read and reported over the past year. Six of these birds (1 male, 5 females) originated in Virginia and were found breeding in other states (Table 5). This included 4 birds in Pennsylvania and 2 birds in New Jersey. A 10-year male banded on Watts Island was resighted in Talbot County, MD on 14 December, 2017. A hatch-year male banded in Reston Town Center was resighted on 27 June, 2018 in Loudon County, VA. A 13-year male banded on Benjamin Harrison Bridge and later hacked on Little Stony Man within Shenandoah National Park was photographed at Dyke Marsh in Alexandria, VA on 4 January, 2019.