Fargo's Individual Falcon Biographies
As of 2010, a total of 30 young peregrines have fledged from the Fargo nest site. Six of these birds are known to have been killed in accidents within days after leaving the nest. Conversely, many of the survivors have gone on to become parents in other locations, or to at least acquire subsequent, known histories. Finally, third generation birds (the babies of our babies) are beginning to establish themselves.
This section provides a biographical summary for each adult peregrine who has been part of a successful nesting in Fargo, plus any second or third generation birds with known histories that expand beyond the nest site. Much of the information summarizaried here came from either the extensive database now maintained by the Midwest Peregrine Society or the annual reports published as part of the Midwest restoration efforts. The balance is based on personal communications with individuals who have been extensively involved with the Midwest restoration project and monitoring efforts.
As of 2009, the database contained records on 5460 individual peregrines and 2077 nestings. During the 29 year period covered by the database, few of the birds raised or released each year have gone unbanded and hence unrecorded. Very few nestings have gone unmonitored. This undoubtedly establishes the reintroduced Midwest population of peregrines as the most intensely studied and monitored population of wild animals on Earth.
Adults (Fargo Parents)
1. Dakota Ace
Hatch Year/Location-1997 near Centerville, South Dakota
Dakota Ace hatched in 1997 at the South Dakota Raptor Trust, one of the largest captive breeding facilities participating in the Midwest restoration activites. He was one of four “surplus” birds donated that year to a hastily organized release effort in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The introduction of captive raised birds into the wild involves a process called “hacking”. A specially designed cage (“hack box”) is placed in an appropriate location and kept stocked with food. After several days the door is opened and the young falcons are allowed to move freely. Typically, they do not go far at first, and return frequently to the hack box for food. It usually takes weeks for a young bird to learn how to hunt on its own and thereby become independent.
Dakota Ace was an exception. He left the release site almost immediately and was not seen again. Such “bolters” typically do not survive, and for several years it was assumed Dakota Ace had been killed shortly after his release. To everyone’s surprise, in the spring of 2000 he appeared in Fargo and proceeded to lay claim to the previously unused nesting tray on what was then the Community First Bank building.
To date, Dakota Ace has paired with three successive females. He has fathered every peregrine raised at the Fargo site. At the end of the 2010 nesting season, the count stood at 30. Furthermore, Dakota Ace now has at least 36 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren (probably more), and seven descendants who are both grandchildren and great-grandchildren (from the Grand Forks nestings where the males have been his sons and the female is his granddaughter).
Hatch Year/Location-1999 in Omaha, Nebraska
Goldie was hatched in the wild in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 22, 1999. She arrived in Fargo one year later and ultimately paired with Dakota Ace.
Juvenile (one year old) peregrines do not typically nest. Goldie was no exception. In the spring of 2001 both she and Dakota Ace returned to Fargo. She ultimately laid four eggs in a nest tray that had been waiting for use since 1990 (see page entitled “Falcons & Bank of the West”). Three of those eggs hatched and all of the young lived to “fledge”, or take their first flights from the nest. This was the first recorded nesting of peregrine falcons in North Dakota since 1954. Undoubtedly it was the first ever nesting in the eastern portions of the state, where no natural nest sites exist.
Goldie did not return to Fargo in 2002. Peregrine falcons are highly territorial and will almost always return to a site where they have successfully bred. Therefore, it must be assumed that Goldie did not survive her third winter.
Goldie’s heritage is noteworthy. She is a direct descendant of Maud, the first peregrine hatched in the wild as part of the Midwest restoration efforts. Goldie’s father was Zeus, a captive raised bird who was released near Rochester, New York. From there he eventually traveled to Omaha, where he nested from 1996 through 2006, fledging a total of 30 young.
Hatch Year/Location-2001 near Alma, Wisconsin
Hatched at a nest site near Alma, Wisconsin, in 2001, Frieda was part of an unusually large brood of five. Frieda’s mother was killed in a hailstorm while all of the young were still in the nest. Nonetheless, the male succeeded in fledging all five young, a testament to the hunting prowess of some peregrines.
Frieda was attracted to the Fargo site in 2002. She then had to compete with several other females seen in Fargo that summer, but by the end of the season had clearly established herself as Goldie’s replacement. No nesting occured in 2002.
Frieda returned every year through 2007. Starting in 2003, she successfully nested each season. Altogether, 18 of the young fledged at this site have been her young.
On February 23, 2004, Frieda was photographed in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is not known if she spent the winter in that area, or was simply moving through as part of her spring migration. This is the only time that one of our adult falcons has been recorded at a remote location.
Hatch Year/Location-2004 near Becker, Minnesota
Dakota Ace’s third and current mate is named Miracle. She was first observed with him on March 25, 2008 (Frieda did not return to Fargo that spring). To date, Miracle has nested three times, fledging a total of nine.
Miracle hatched in 2004 at the Sherco power plant operated by Xcel Energy near Becker, Minnesota. Xcel has long been an active participant in the peregrine restoration efforts. In part, nest boxes have been installed on many of the tall emission stacks found at its fossil fuel power plants. Due to the high level of monitoring and protection these sites receive, on average they are the most productive nesting sites in the Midwest.
Second Generation (Fargo Babies)
Hatch year/Location-2001 in Fargo, North Dakota
Copper hatched in Fargo in 2001, one of three young peregrines raised in our first nesting. She has an extensive subsequent history.
From 2005 through 2007, Copper successfully nested in a box at the Champion International Paper Mill in Sartell, Minnesota, fledging a total of nine young. Copper was probably present at this same site in 2003 and 2004, but was not positively identified and the nesting attempts those years were unsuccessful. At least since 2005, Copper’s mate has been Dakotah, a male peregrine who hatched in Fargo in 2003.
Copper is unusually aggressive. The nest box in Sartell was located close to a residential neighborhood and park. Particularly when she had young in the nest, Copper would “defend” the surrounding area by attacking any pedestrian she deemed to be a potential threat. This ultimately became a safety concern. Over the protest of many area residents, the nest box was removed after the 2007 nesting season.
Copper and Dakotah returned to Sartell in 2008, but without a box did not attempt to nest. In 2009 they took over a nest box several miles away, presumably ousting its previous occupants in the process. This second site is located at the state prison in St Cloud. Copper and Dakotah fledged three young that year at the prison site, bringing their total production to 12. They did not return in 2010, and no subsequent history exists.
Hatch Year/Location-2003 in Fargo, North Dakota
As mentioned above, since 2005 Dakota has been paired with his half-sibling, Copper. These birds have a common father (Dakota Ace), but different mothers. As Dakotah hatched in 2003, they are also two years apart in age.
Because the population of peregrines is so small, it is not unusual for closely related individuals to pair. Further examples will be described below. Genetically, such pairings do not appear to have any detrimental effect.
Hatch Year/Location-2003 in Fargo, North Dakota
Holly was the only female raised in Fargo in 2003. This photo of Holly (held by her namesake) was taken immediately after her banding. The next spring she appeared in Brandon, Manitoba, where she found a mate and an available nest tray. This tray is attached to the McKenzie Seeds building, and was first installed as part of the early reintroduction efforts conducted in Canada. This nest site was used continuously from 1990 through 2000, but then sat empty until 2004.
Juvenile peregrines usually do not nest, but Holly was precocious. As a one-year old, she laid two eggs and fledged one young.
Holly continued to nest at the McKenzie Seeds site in Brandon through 2007, where she fledged a total of 10 young. Holly has not been reported at any location since 2007, and presumably did not survive the winter of 2007-08. She has been replaced at the Brandon site by a new female.
Hatch Year/Location-2003 in Fargo, North Dakota
Lewis paired with an unbanded female in 2005. At least one egg was laid on the roof of the Interchange Building in Golden Valley, Minnesota, but the attempt failed. In 2010 Lewis was part of a successful nesting at the St. Cloud correctional facility, the same location where Copper and Dakotah nested in 2009. Four young were fledged from this site in 2010.
The fourth baby who hatched in Fargo in 2003 was killed shortly after fledging. Therefore all of the suvivors have gone on to nest successfully. Statisically this is extraordinary. It is estimated that only one in ten peregrines succeeds in reproducing.
Hatch Year/Location-2005 in Fargo, North Dakota
Bear hatched in Fargo in 2005. In 2007, he paired with an unbanded female at the “Smiley Face” water tower in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Although a nest box was placed on the walkway, no nesting occured.
In 2008 Bear returned to Grand Forks. That year he paired with a new female. Her name is Terminator.
The pairing of Bear and Terminator in 2008 resulted in the laying of four eggs. Only one hatched. That baby fledged but was killed several days later when he collided with a power line. This was a very disappointing end for the first Grand Forks nesting.
The first photo of Bear shows him in the nest box in Fargo. The second shows him several years later at the nest box in Grand Forks.
Hatch Year/Location-2007 in Fargo, North Dakota
Bear did not return to Grand Forks in the spring of 2009. He was replaced by his brother, Roosevelt (same parents, different brood). The 2009 pairing of Roosevelt and Terminator produced three eggs. All hatched and fledged, but one of the young was later killed in an accident.
The Smiley Face tower was demolished after the 2009 nesting season, and the box was moved to the water tower on the UND campus. Roosevelt and his mate had no difficulty with the adjustment. They nested at the new site in 2010, fledging three more young.
Roosevelt hatched in Fargo in 2007.
7. Audrey Jean
Hatch Year/Location-2008 in Fargo, North Dakota
Band-b/g *X/*A7. Sandy
Hatch Year/Location-2009 in Fargo, North Dakota
In 2010 Audrey Jean nested on the Crow Creek Cliff on the north shore of Lake Superior. Three young were fledged.
It has been reported that peregrines raised in urban environments have a tendancy to select such locations for nest sites as adults. Assuming this is true, Audrey Jean is an exception to the rule. She is also the sixth and youngest of the Fargo babies to become a successful parent.
Sandy was one of three peregrines raised in Fargo in 2009. At the time of banding she appeared to be a female and was banded accordingly. By way of elaboration, female peregrines are usually much larger than males. Correspondingly, they tend to have larger feet and legs. Two sizes of bands are typically used on peregrines, the larger size going on female chicks. When the young birds are banded foot size is used to determine sex. If doubt exists (as in Sandy’s case), the larger female band is used.
Sandy fledged on June 24. It is not known precisely when Sandy left the Fargo area, but young peregrines typically stay in contact with their parents and siblings for several weeks to several months after leaving the nest. Where they go from there is unpredictable and highly variable. In Sandy’s case, however, we do know a small part of the story.
From October 5 through 16, 2009, Sandy was in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She spent much of her time on the Radisson building, where she was repeatedly photographed by the web cameras mounted on that building. Curiously Sandy returned to the same location in October of 2010. This time she stayed through the winter. (Not all peregrines migrate and they have been known to winter as far north as Winnepeg.)
Third Generation Birds (Babies of Fargo Babies)
Hatch Date/Location-2006 in Brandon, Manitoba
Terminator hatched in Brandon, Manitoba, in 2006. Her mother is Holly, part of the 2003 Fargo brood.
As noted above, for the last three years Terminator has been successfully nesting in Grand Forks. In 2008 her mate was Bear, a male falcon who hatched in Fargo in 2005. In recent years her mate has been Roosevelt, another Fargo hatch (2007).
To date, Terminator has laid 10 eggs. Seven have hatched and fledged.
Hatch year/Location-2005 in Brandon, Manitoba
Donna is also one of Holly’s babies. She hatched at the Brandon, Manitoba site in 2005.
Donna has apparently been nesting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan since 2008. As Saskatchewan is not one of the provinces included in the Midwest database, limited information is available. It has been reported that Donna laid six eggs in 2008 (an extraordinary number), but no subsequent details have been provided.
Hatch Year/Location-2005 in Sartell, Minnesota
Gypsy hatched at the Sartell, Minnesota site in 2005. Therefore, both of her parents are from Fargo. Her mother, Copper, was part of the first brood raised in 2001. Her father, Dakotah, is from the 2003 brood.
Gypsy has led an interesting and apparently violent life.
She was first observed at the well-established Lock and Dam 1 nest site in Minneapolis in April of 2008. Several weeks later the female who had been nesting at this site for seven years was found dead. It is very likely that this bird was killed by Gypsy in a battle over the territory. Gypsy remained at the Lock and Dam 1 site through the fall with the resident male. The five eggs already in the nest when Gypsy arrived were not adopted by her and did not hatch. Gypsy laid no eggs of her own in 2008.
The following March, Gypsy apparently killed a second resident female in a fight over an established site, this time at the Cedar Riverside Apartments in Minneapolis. On this occasion Gypsy did mate with the resident male, ultimately raising three young.
Surprisingly, in November of 2009 Gypsy invaded a third territory previously held by a successful female. On this occasion she took over the MultiFoods Tower nest site in downtown Minneapolis. This is both the oldest and one of the most successful sites in the Midwest. The fate of the female who previously nested at this site is unknown.
Since then Gypsy has been reported at various locations in the Minneapolis area. She again successfully nested in 2010, but it not at any of the sites she had previously occupied. Gypsy’s nomadic behavior is very unusual, as peregrines typically return to the same nest site, particularly if the have been successful at that location.
(Peregrine falcons are lethal predators and territorial conflicts can be very aggressive. Although most such conflicts end without serious injury, this is not always the case. Indeed, injuries sustained in such fights are now recognized as a leading cause of mortality in adult, female peregrines. Territorial conflicts between males are less likely to be fatal.)
Note: This section has been updated to reflect all reported information through the conclusion of the 2010 nesting season, but does not describe activity in 2011.
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