Peregrine Falcons

Updates on Athena and her family from the High Bridge Power Plant

Athena faces the camera

Vote now for your favorite falcon name! (2007) - 6/20/2007

Athena's eggs have all hatched (2007) - 6/1/2007

Eggwatch 2007 - 4/16/2007
Athena's laid her first egg of the year!

2007 Falcon Sightings - 03/06/2007
Athena has returned to the nest box.

Athena's eggs are hatching - 05/02/2006
Athena's four eggs hatched in the begining of May, 2006.

First falcon sighting of 2006 - 01/26/2006
Athena is seen returning to the High Bridge nest in January, 2006.

The sad story of Athena and Smoke - 04/06/2005
How Athena came to the High Bridge nest and the loss of her mate.

The rise and fall of peregrine falcons

Peregrine falcons are raptors—birds of prey. In particular, they eat other birds that they catch in the air. They can dive at speeds of over 200 miles per hour, making them the fastest animals on earth.

Peregrines were once found throughout North America, favoring rocky perches along coasts, rivers, and lakes. They prefer being near large bodies of water because the open water makes it difficult for birds to find cover from a diving peregrine.

DDT chemical structure

Peregrine populations plummeted in the 1950s and ‘60s because the pesticide DDT caused the eggshells of peregrines and many other bird species to become so thin that adults crushed them while sitting on them. Bu 1968, only about 39 nesting pairs remained in the entire U.S. DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972. As DDT levels decreased in the environment, the laying of abnormally thin eggshells diminished.

high bridge power plant showing location of nest box on smokestack
Xcel Energy High Bridge Generating Plant, St. Paul

But peregrines needed assistance to fully recover. As part of an overall energy strategy to reintroduce peregrines to their former ranges, NSP (now Xcel Energy) and the Raptor Resource Project initiated the power plant nesting project in 1989, when the Allen S. King Plant on the St. Croix River 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 2,000 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 now are beginning to expand from power plant next 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 stack of other power companies as well as on a few commercial office buildings.

Peregrine falcons can be aggressive to window washers, air conditioning repair people, and people just sitting on their balconies. For this reason, many falcon enthusiasts are beginning to pull nest boxes from office buildings and residential high rises.