Northern Michigan in Focus: International Bridge Peregrine Falcons

Sometimes nature is awesome.

Believe it or not, up in Sault Ste. Marie, there’s a pair of birds inadvertently helping the International Bridge with a problem.

Corey Adkins explains in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.

“We are approaching about 2 million cars a year,” said Karl Hansen, bridge engineer.

Peregrine falcons at the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie

The International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie is a busy border crossing with lots of security.

“We have customs on this side, federal and then Canada border security on the other side, so it is a secure crossing,” explained Karl.

That security can sometimes lead to backups, so the bridge authority has put webcams up so people can see if there’s a lot of traffic or not, but if you scroll down just a bit you find something else.

“This one is strictly for fun, for watching the falcons that are north of the U.S. arch,” said Karl.

A pair of peregrine falcons have made the International Bridge their home and nesting site, and this isn’t the first time they’ve been here.

“They have been coming here since 1999, I believe, was the first time they were noticed. Birds live a long time, so we are pretty sure they are the same nesting pair,” explained Karl.

Peregrine falcons we’re wiped out in the 1950s by the use of D.D.T. and other pesticides.

They were reintroduced in the ‘80s around the Pictures Rocks area, but soon found they liked manmade structures as well.

“It’s on top of a pier, a big concrete pier about 120 ft. in the air, and they are over the Locks where they are not easy to see from the ground, almost impossible,” said Karl.

They built a box in 2010 for the falcons, because they were exposed to the elements.

Wind would blow the eggs off and they would lose the chicks.  And ever since they put those boxes up…

“We have had 24 that have hatched out of that nest box,” said Karl.

You won’t see the falcons at the box much now, but they should be laying their eggs in a couple weeks so they’ll be around more.

But something you might be surprised by is the service they provide to the bridge.

“We also like these falcons because they are the fastest bird on Earth. They will dive at their prey over 200 m.p.h. and they eat birds and their favorite food it pigeons, and we don’t like pigeons here because they get up on the bridge and their droppings are corrosive to the steel,” explained Karl. “So these two falcons help us control the pigeon population, so they are almost like part of our work force here.”

Just a little more security at the International Bridge.

“It’s really a unique opportunity because these birds, their habitat where they nest is usually so high no one can see what goes on with it, hatching and eating and living their lives. Now you have a window right into their box, so we are hoping that it’s real popular,” said Karl.

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus