The Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife today released a rehabilitated peregrine falcon from Twin Lights of the Navesink Historic Site in Highlands, Monmouth County, to draw attention to the continued resurgence of birds of prey in the Garden State.
“The health of our wildlife populations is a good indicator of the overall health of the environment,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Chanda. “This is particularly true of birds of prey, also known as raptors, which have made remarkable recoveries in New Jersey over the past several decades. Populations of peregrine falcons, ospreys and bald eagles continue to climb in New Jersey.”
The annual state income tax Check-off for Wildlife provides critical support to the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, which works to promote and protect growing populations of bald eagles, peregrine falcons and ospreys.
Peregrine falcons are experiencing record productivity rates. Twenty-six pairs of peregrines now occupy appropriate nesting habitat in New Jersey. Though still small, the population exhibited high productivity last year, with all but two pairs successfully fledging at least one young. The 24 nests produced 57 young for a success rate of 92 percent and a production rate of 2.19 young per active nest.
Peregrines can be found nesting on bridge towers, water towers, and high buildings. Some peregrine falcons relocated from New Jersey have even been used to help rebuild populations in West Virginia. Peregrines relocated from New Jersey between 2006 and 2011 have been confirmed inhabiting the mountain areas of West Virginia and western Maryland.
The osprey population, meanwhile, has reached a milestone – nearly 550 pairs now nesting in the state. This total possibly surpasses numbers that have nested in the state prior to steep declines in the 1950s and 1960s due to habitat loss and pesticide contamination.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife, aided by volunteers, documented 542 osprey nests last year. These specialized predators are found predominantly in coastal areas, with heaviest populations found around Barnegat Bay, Great Bay, Cumberland County’s Maurice River marshes, the Avalon-Stone Harbor area, bays around the Wildwoods, and Raritan Bay.
Bald eagle populations, meanwhile, continue to soar to new record highs each year, with 148 territorial pairs counted in 2013, up from 135 in 2012. Of these, 119 pairs actively nested, meaning they laid eggs. Ninety-six nests produced 176 young. The annual Midwinter Eagle Survey in 2013 counted 297 bald eagles – 264 in southern New Jersey and 33 in the northern part of the state.
The male falcon released today was found in Montclair with a dislocated shoulder. It was rehabilitated by the nonprofit Raptor Trust, a key partner in the state’s work to protect and enhance populations of birds of prey. The falcon is estimated to be less than a year old and was likely migrating from its birth area in Canada when it was injured. The source of the injury is not known.
Twin Lights, operated by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, is situated atop a 200-foot high bluff, affords a sweeping view of dangerous Atlantic waters near Sandy Hook. The area round the lighthouse provides ideal habitat for falcons, which can achieve dive speeds upwards of 200 MPH.
“Peregrines are like the cheetah of the bird world, and the area around Sandy Hook and the Navesink Highlands provides plenty of high spots for perching and open bays and rivers for hunting,” said Kathy Clark, supervising biologist with the DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program. “It’s likely that this falcon will spend the rest of the winter here, and may even linger longer.”
Check-off funds go to support wildlife conservation programs and are used to match or leverage funds from the federal government’s State Wildlife Grants program. The sales of Conserve Wildlife license plates also help fund the program.
In addition to the New Jersey Endangered Wildlife Fund, taxpayers may choose to designate contributions to other worthwhile programs. Details are included in the Form 1040 instructions. Contributions to any of these check-off funds will reduce your refund commensurately.
Separate reports highlighting the success of the raptor restoration efforts and providing detailed charts and analysis are available at http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/raptor_info.htm
Article developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.