Falcons Call Nuclear Power Plant Home

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Unidentified (probably hybrid) Falcon Falco. Shot at Eagle Heights Wildlife Park, Kent, England. Photo by Kevin Law.

In New Hampshire the peregrine falcon is considered state-threatened, and in Vermont there are only 40 pairs. How lucky then for employees at the Yankee Nuclear Power Station that a rare couple of falcons have chosen the smokestack of the power plant as their home.

The falcons were first sited by the workers at the plant in 2009 when they were phoned by a New Hampshire Audubon biologist. The workers then swung into action and received permission from their management to build and install a nesting box on the smokestack. The box was built by veteran employee Steve Skibniowski, who is now a consultant at the plant. Skibniowski received intstructions for the nest’s construction from Audubon experts on peregrines. The box boasts an open front and a unique perch for the birds.

“I’m surprised it’s held up as well as it has, because it’s very severe weather up there,” he said.

The nest also has a camera which allows them to watch the younger birds as they grow up. Observers learn about the daily lives of falcons from the camera feed, which is not available to the public at large.

Sometimes the employees do more than merely watch the birds. At least one time they were able to help them when a young falcon fell from the nest and broke one of its wings.  Skibniowski acquired gizzards and giblets to feed the wounded bird, and then drove him to the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences, where they staff a bird rehabilitation center in Quechee. When the bird subsequently healed at the center he was released back into nature.