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Falcons make a comeback on ‘human built cliffs’

Posted at 9:11 PM, Aug 30, 2021

PORT WASHINGTON — When choosing a place to live, the Peregrine Falcon is a lot like the most picky person.

It's all about location.

We Energies falcon manager Greg Septon just had to roll out a welcome mat.

"They like following shorelines, they like tall structures," Septon said in the shadow of We Energies' Port Washington power plant.

A tall structure that just happens to be on the shore of Lake Michigan.

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"We have a human built cliff here along a shoreline, plenty of food here -- lots of birds -- so it's home," he said.

Think of Septon as their landlord.

He sets up nest boxes for Peregrine Falcons across the state, including the We Energies power plants in Port Washington and Oak Creek.

On the day we visited, Septon was there paying a visit to his tenants, a mother and father with three chicks.

While an assistant keeps mom and dad at bay with a broom, Greg scoops up the babies for a trip inside.

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It's time for a checkup and to get banded with a small metal bracelet.

That will let raptor watchers like Septon keep track on the birds as they live out their lives.

One by one, Septon gently removed the birds from a crate, wrapped them in a towel and applied their new name tag.

He also took a moment to evaluate the latest generation of an amazing comeback.

"She's healthy. She's a big girl," Septon said, turning the largest of the three feathery chicks over in his hands.

Prior to 1987, Peregrine Falcons had not been seen in Wisconsin for decades.

Their habitat was reduced and toxic chemicals were destroying their eggs.

Last year there were 38 pairs of falcons with 116 chicks.

So what does the resurgence of these birds tell us about our environment?

Septon says it is simple.

"If they're doing well, we're doing well," he said

Greg says cleaner air and water has given these birds a chance at life.

Just like the nest boxes give them a place to call home.

An investment in the future of the species that keeps paying off.

"They look fantastic. The two females were big and heavy. These are significant girls. They're gonna live and do well," he said.

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