On top of the Milorganite building at the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility, two Peregrine Falcons make their home. The falcons, returning this year for their third spring, are living proof of recovery. By 1965, one would have been hard pressed to find a Peregrine Falcon east of the Mississippi River. DDT, a pesticide, had penetrated the food chain and falcons were exposed each time they ate their prey. The DDT caused the falcons to build up fatty tissue, produce eggs with weaker shells and rapidly decline in population.
The Eastern Peregrine Recovery Plan has helped restore biodiversity by providing falcons with urban nesting sites. In many ways, cities mimic falcon’s natural environment. The tall buildings are similar to the high, rocky cliffs that falcons like for nesting, while pigeons and starlings are plentiful prey. Because of the ample prey, Peregrine Falcons in the upper Midwest do not generally migrate.
In the fall of 2011, Veolia workers installed a nesting box on top of the Milorganite building at the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility, and have successfully hatched multiple falcons. The box – which includes a hinged door to facilitate banding of the birds - attracted a nesting pair of Peregrines in spring of 2012. Three young peregrines hatched, grew and learned to fly from their perches 150 feet above ground. In 2013 and 2014, the falcons returned and made their nest in the box. Last year, the pair hatched two young falcons, Alyvia and Dean. This year, the falcons are back and you can watch everything that happens during the nesting season March to September, live on the Falcon Cam.
For more information on how the Jones Island facility protects the environment, stop by on Saturday, September 19 between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for a tour of the plant.