Stories tagged High Bridge

I just downloaded the Raptor Resource 2008 Project Banding Report (how's that for a little light reading?), and I found the following:

"We removed the High Bridge stack nest box after the 2007 nesting season. Xcel Energy was converting from a coal facility to natural gas turbine operation, and planned to raze the stack some time in early 2008. We installed a replacement nest box on the nearby ADM stackhouse, but it appears that the falcons chose to nest under the nearby High Bridge instead."

All spring we watched and waited, and the birds were there all along! I'll get in touch with the folks at Xcel and Raptor Resource and see what we can do about watching the peregrines during the 2009 nesting season.


High Bridge power plant smokestack: Things are gonna be different around here...
High Bridge power plant smokestack: Things are gonna be different around here...Courtesy tboard
At 7:30 on Saturday morning, the 570-foot-tall, 5770-ton smokestack of the High Bridge power plant will come crashing down. Xcel Energy’s new gas-fired plant is complete, and the old coal-burning plant, built in 1923, is being torn down. If you want to watch, try the bluff across the river. (Traffic will be stopped on the High Bridge, Randolph Avenue, and Shepard Road.) And be on time: the stack is expected to fall in about 10 seconds. Even the dust cloud should dissipate quickly.

More info from the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

An icon on the skyline
An icon on the skylineCourtesy edkohler

Folks from Excel Energy and the Raptor Resource Project provided a new nest box to the staff at the ADM terminal at 575 Drake Street (at the intersection of Shepard Road and Randolph Avenue). ADM is going to mount and prepare the box by February 1. With a little luck, the falcons we've been lucky to watch for the last few breeding seasons at the High Bridge stack will find the new box and set up housekeeping as usual. (The High Bridge stack is going to be demolished; right now, the nest cam shows the construction site of the new, adjacent power plant.) Keep your eyes open and your fingers crossed...


In 1989, a Northern States Power (now Xcel Energy) employee spotted a peregrine falcon hanging out around the stack of the Allen S. King Plant in Bayport, Minnesota. The company installed a nest box, which quickly became home to a falcon named Mae.

The nest box was a success, and the power company decided to provide nest boxes at nearly all of its Minnesota power plants, including the High Bridge Plant. (You can see the High Bridge Plant, about a mile upstream from the museum, from the windows of the Mississippi River Gallery on Level 5.)

This year, the High Bridge Plant nest box is home to falcons named Athena and Smoke. They appeared at the nest box for the first time this year on February 3rd. And Athena laid eggs on March 28, March 30, April 2, and April 5. Want to see what they're doing right now? Click here. (You can also watch the falcons on a big video screen in the Mississippi River Gallery.)

Check out these pictures of the nest box over the last 24 hours.

Why the nest boxes?
Peregrines once were found throughout North America, favoring rocky perches along coasts, rivers, and lakes. They prefer these areas because the open water makes it difficult for birds to find cover from a diving peregrine.

Peregrine populations plummeted in the 1950s and 1960s. The pesticide DDT thinned the eggshells of falcons and many other bird species to become so much that adults crushed the eggs while incubating them. By 1968, only about 39 nesting pairs remained in the entire United States. DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, and as DDT levels decreased in the environment, peregrine populations started to rebound.

But peregrines needed assistance to fully recover. In 1989, the Allen S. King Plant on the St. Croix River in Bayport, Minnesota, became the first power plant in the U.S. to provide a nest box for peregrines. Power plant nest boxes are largely responsible for returning the peregrine falcon to its rightful place on the bluffs of the Mississippi River.

Over 2000 pairs of peregrines are now nesting in North America. Because of this spectacular recovery, the peregrine has been taken off the federal government's endangered species list. Peregrines are now beginning to expand from power plant nest boxes to their former nesting habitats of cliffs and bluffs.

Between 1989 and 2000, 114 young peregrines have fledged from nest boxes located on the stacks of seven Xcel Energy power plants. Nest boxes exist on the stacks of other power companies as well as on a few commercial office buildings.

What can we expect to see at the nest box in the next few months?
Female peregrines usually lay three to five eggs in early spring. The male and female share the 33-day incubation duties, which include turning the eggs regularly. (We expect to see baby peregrines sometime between May 4th and May 10th!)

At hatching, baby peregrines are covered with white down, weigh about two ounces, and have a small bump on their beaks. This "egg tooth" helps them break out of their shells. It disappears as the chicks mature.

Feathers replace down in three to five weeks. Young falcons are banded for identification and study when they are about 20 days old. Juveniles leave the nest (fledge) when they are about 45 days old. Sixty percent of peregrines die during their first year of life. After that, the annual mortality rate is around twenty percent. And peregrines can live for 12-15 years.

Peregrines pick their mates for life when they're about three years old, and the pairs stay together even when they're not breeding. They establish a nest site at the center of a thirty-plus-mile home range. They will defend their nests from intruders and want no peregrine neighbors closer than three miles from their home.

What do we know about the High Bridge falcons?
FEMALE: Athena
Band #: 01/D
She hatched in 2003 from the Firstar Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
If she stays, 2005 will mark her first year here.

MALE: Smoke
Band #: *3/*1
He hatched in 1998 from the King Plant in Oak Park Heights.
One of Mae's chicks, Smoke was one of the first two falcon chicks to "grow up" on-line. Smoke's brother Prescott has nested at the Red Wing grain elevator since 2001.