August 1, 2002

2002 Fall Bulletin


We will be operating a hawk banding station in the mountains above Leavenworth once again during September and October of 2002. This is the second year of this study at Entiat Ridge. We would like to invite all former participants to join us for another hawk season. Please contact our own wonderful Vivian Gross to arrange your schedules at (425) 823-6582 or e-mail at . If you are new to the project, contact the project leader, Mark Gleason, at (206) 634-0649 in Seattle.

Now every year at this time, I have the sad duty to inform you that the Vine Maples are already turning colors. I know it is difficult to accept but fall is just around the corner. Hawk movements will start in about 3 weeks from now and be heavily underway in just over a month. Time to start thinking about time in the blind.


To help prepare for the fall migration project, we will be conducting our annual fall hawk banding classes in both Seattle and Mt. Vernon beginning in August. The purpose of this class is to train volunteers to participate in the Entiat Ridge Hawk Migration Project. The four-session class will teach you the basics of fall hawk migration, how to identify species of raptors that occur at the Entiat site and how to safely capture, handle, and band wild migrant hawks as part of the FRG banding team.

Class will be held in Seattle on Tuesday nights at the Center for Urban Horticulture from 13 August through 3 September 7-9 pm and at the Padilla Bay Center near Mt. Vernon on Wednesday nights 14 August through 4 September 7-9 pm.

Topics will include daily set-up and takedown duties; types of hawk traps; trap operation; luring techniques; safe-handling procedures (for you and the bird); aging and sexing criteria; banding methods. Please note that all hawk-banding stations utilize live pigeons and starlings as lure birds to attract raptors. You may want to make certain that this practice is OK with you prior to signing up for the class.

To register, please send a check to the FRG at the address listed above. Cost of the class is $100.00 per person. If you have questions please contact Bud.


As many of you know, Merlins are an uncommon breeding species in Washington. It has only been in the last several years, primarily due to the work of Tom Gleason, that we are now aware of over a dozen pairs breeding in the western half of our state.

This year, in a seemingly increasing trend, two pairs bred in cities; Bellingham and Mt. Vernon. Another pair is suspected to be breeding somewhere in Everett.

This is the third year that a pair of Merlins is known to have produced young in Bellingham. We do not know if they are the same birds since neither adult is banded. This year, they selected a Spruce tree in a residential neighborhood. They nested in an old crow's nest 62' from the ground. The pair became quite a sensation in the area and many neighbors got involved in the progress of the family group, listening to food transfers, food-begging, nest defense and monitoring the fledging of the young around mid-July.

On 21 June, I climbed the tree with permission from the landowner. With the able help of Jim Fackler, we banded 5 three-week-old eyasses; 3 females and 2 males. Remarkably enough, this is the first record of nestling Merlins being banded in Washington. These birds were feeding primarily on House Sparrows.

A second pair of Merlins succeeded in raising 4 young in a city park in Mt. Vernon for the first time. Last year, the female at this site was killed and eaten by an unknown predator (Cooper's Hawk?) prior to hatching young so the pair failed.

Many of us think that Merlins could easily be breeding in Seattle but are being overlooked. Be aware, as we expect the trend in city nesting Merlins to increase.


We are continuing to monitor the expanding breeding population in the San Juan Islands. This was the 10th year of our research effort. The number has increased to 20 pairs, far beyond what anyone expected for local peregrines.

This year, we had a new and unexpected occurrence. Eight of the 20 pairs failed, a rate (40%) that we have never seen before. We suspect that it was caused primarily by poor weather in April and May, although we also saw evidence of predation. At one site, for example, I found a half-eaten eyass peregrine just below a failed ledge. This was the first time I have seen this in many years of banding chicks all over the world. The only ground predator on this island is the Raccoon.

Nevertheless, we succeeded in banding 28 young peregrines with color bands (black with silver letters). To date, over the 8 years of San Juan banding, we have tagged 174 young peregrines (21.75 per year) in the islands.


Peregrines are now occupying 5 cities in western Washington, Seattle (3 pairs), Everett (1 pair), Bremerton (1 pair), Bellevue (1 pair) and Tacoma (1 pair).

The Washington Mutual pair in Seattle fledged 4 young in 2002. They have now produced 22 young in 8 years.

The famous "D-1", a bird we banded as a nestling in the San Juans on 13 June 1997, and who subsequently tried to breed on the West Seattle Freeway Bridge, was found injured at Safeco Field on 19 April 2002. Attempts by the Woodland Park Zoo to rehabilitate her were unsuccessful and she remains in captivity.

All of the other city pairs failed this year except a new pair in Everett, which produced a single young bird. This eyrie was located on a bridge counterweight, similar to the nest in Tacoma. The scrape was situated on a thick bed of rodent bones from decomposed Barn Owl pellets. It was not an ideal substrate for falcon eggs.

We would like to thank Mike McDonald, Washington State DOT biologist for arranging permission and assistance to work the bridge falcons this year.


Several years ago, Ed Schulz discovered a unique population of 26 pairs of Ospreys nesting in the Everett Harbor area. The nests are located on pilings in a relatively small area and are accessible by boat.

Last year, we began to band the young in an attempt to discover where they winter and to learn if the young return to Everett to breed as adults. In 2001, we banded 48 young. Four were recovered within the first month in Snohomish County. No other returns have been reported since then.

During this work, we encountered a nestling with severe birth defects. It was missing all of its toes on one foot, had malformed legs and a withered wing. Apparently this has never been seen before in Ospreys and so it drew some attention.

As a result, this year we are working with a leading Osprey/toxicology expert, Dr. Chuck Henny, of the USGS. Chuck has arranged to analyze contaminant loads in the Ospreys, locally nesting Double-crested Cormorants and the main fish prey species in the harbor, Starry Flounders. We hope that this study will clarify the causes of the birth deformity in the Osprey chick. It must also be emphasized that the deformity may have been a natural occurrence. No other deformed birds have been found so far this year.

Thus far, we have banded 35 more young with a few more nest sites remaining to visit.


The FRG continues to work with Steve Osmek, biologist for the Port of Seattle, to capture and re-locate raptors inhabiting the runway areas of Sea-Tac Airport. The purpose of this work is to reduce the number of bird strikes impacting aircraft.

We routinely visit the airport and document the number and type of hawks that inhabit the area. We have found that the most common species is the Red-tailed Hawk and at least 5 pairs nest around the perimeter of the field.

Our strategy is to let the resident adult breeders remain on their territories. These birds have spent years around jet activity and are experienced at avoiding aircraft. If we remove them, other less experienced hawks will fill the vacuum.

Therefore, we have captured, radio-tagged and/or wing-tagged 8 of the adults.

In contrast, when we encounter the less experienced immature hawks, we capture and re-locate them to Skagit or Whatcom Counties. This is beneficial for both the hawks and aircraft.

Since we began this project in 2001, we have moved or radio-tagged 31 birds of prey including Red-tails, Cooper's Hawks and American Kestrels. A website describing this project is available at .


Here are more of our ever-fascinating band returns, all involving peregrines.

A peregrine banded as a nestling in the San Juan Islands on 10 June 1997 was found injured at Duncan, B.C. on 9 July 2002.

Roger Orness observed another peregrine banded as a nestling in the San Juan Islands on 12 June 1999 at the Kent Ponds on 18 April 2002.

Another San Juan peregrine banded on 29 May 2000 was recovered injured at Nanaimo, B.C. on 15 March 2002.

A fourth San Juan Island nestling, banded on 3 June 2001, was observed at Clover Point (near Victoria B.C.) on 23 April 2002 and later by Jack Bettesworth and Bob Merrick on Whidbey Island on 26 May 2002.

A new immature female peregrine taking up residence as a potential breeder in downtown Bellevue was banded last year in Portland, Oregon by J. Pagel.

Both adults at the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge eyrie are banded. The new adult female peregrine was banded at a site on the Columbia River near Portland in 2000. Her mate, a first year male, is from the 2001 Washington Mutual brood.

~~ Thank you for your support! ~~