Peregrine Falcons Raising Chicks at Consumers Energy Site

Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Nik Kalejs holds a month-old peregrine falcon at the J.H. Campbell Complex. Two nesting adults are raising their four chicks in a nest box on the Unit 2 stack, which resembles a cliff to the birds.

Ever since we sponsored the initial west Michigan breeding, raising and releasing of a pair of peregrines in 1995, each year we hope that a pair of falcons will choose our Campbell complex for their home. We’re excited that this year two nesting adults are currently raising their four chicks in a nest box on the Unit 2 stack, which resembles a cliff to the birds. Here’s a great picture of Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Nik Kalejs holding one of the month-old peregrine falcons at our J.H. Campbell Complex along Lake Michigan near West Olive, Michigan.

When possible, newly hatched peregrines are “banded” with the state and federal identification bracelets on their legs. The young at the Campbell complex are banded as part of a program to track the development of the species. Young falcons grow quickly, becoming adult size in less than two months. An adult peregrine falcon has a wingspan of 36 to 44 inches.

The falcon population was decimated in the 1970s because the use of DDT and similar pesticides hurt egg development. The peregrine falcon was eventually removed from the federal endangered species list, but remains listed as a threatened species.

While the peregrine population is growing nationally, having a successful nesting is “rather rare and quite exciting,” said the DNR’s Kalejs. “It takes a company and employee commitment to strong habitat enhancement programs to attract a breeding pair.”

Peregrine falcon activities are the premier environmental stewardship program at the Campbell Complex.  Each year, peregrine falcons nest in boxes placed high above the surface, resembling the habitat the birds seek in rocky cliffs. When chicks hatch in the boxes, employees assist wildlife biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources when identification bands are placed on the legs of the chicks. The activity is in support of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program to track the migration and health of peregrine falcons, a protected species. The artificial nest boxes are the only known nesting habitat for the birds in west Michigan.

The Campbell Complex is certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council and has affiliated environmental enhancement programs or projects on much of the site’s 2,000 acres. More than 500 types of trees, plants, animals and fish thrive on the Campbell site. Many are found in the woods and vegetation on a 200-foot-high dune west of the generating units that has been included in the Nature Conservancy’s Michigan Natural Areas Registry. Among the rare plants found on the dune is the Pitcher’s thistle, an endangered species.

The Campbell complex is one of several Consumers Energy facilities certified as wildlife habitat areas by the Wildlife Habitat Council, a national organization which works with companies across the United States to make wildlife preservation and enhancement part of their business operations. The peregrine falcon program is one of several wildlife enhancement programs maintained as part of the Campbell complex certification of its site.