ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Not many visitors can claim actually to have been born in the only national park in Maine.
Not that they would, but there are seven new peregrine falcons in Acadia this year entitled to make such a brag — the highest number in the past several years. The chicks were born at three sites in the park where adult peregrine falcons frequently build nests each spring as they try to reproduce.
All the chicks have fledged, which means they have learned how to fly and now are independent enough that trails near the nesting sites have been reopened, Acadia officials said Friday in a prepared statement. The sites where they were born are on Jordan Cliffs, the east face of Champlain Mountain near Precipice Trail, and the east face of St. Sauveur Mountain, overlooking Valley Cove on Somes Sound.
Mary Downey with Acadia National Park said Saturday in an email that four chicks fledged this summer from the Precipice site, one from Jordan Cliffs and two from Valley Cove. Only two in the whole park fledged in 2013, five in 2012 and none at all in 2011, when an early April snowstorm apparently doomed their chances, she said.
Peregrine falcons, which are protected under state law, prefer nesting on cliffs where they have commanding views and can hunt for other, smaller birds. The falcons are famous for their breath-taking aerial plunges which, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, can reach speeds of up to 200 mph.
Each spring, the park closes hiking trails near active nesting sites to prevent disturbance of the birds while they mate and raise their young. The falcons are expected to remain in the park until the early fall, at which point they will migrate back south.
Peregrine falcons have a mixed record for reproducing in Acadia, with some years being fruitful and others coming up empty. In 2007, for example, all the birds’ nesting efforts failed due to harsh spring weather, park officials have said. But the following year, in 2008, seven chicks successfully were born and lived to learn how to fly.
The falcon species, now common throughout much of the world, was protected by the federal Endangered Species Act from 1970 until 1999. The use of DDT and other pesticides after World War II decimated many bird populations, including that of peregrine falcons, resulting in none being seen in Maine from the early 1960s until 1984, when efforts to reintroduce them to Maine began, Acadia officials have said.
Peregrine falcons first returned to Acadia on their own in 1991. They have returned every year since, producing a total of more than 120 chicks that have fledged over the past 23 years. Other sites in Maine where falcons have appeared in recent years include Portland, Bangor, Monhegan Island, and the old Waldo-Hancock Bridge near Bucksport, among others.