By: Bryan Watts
The pair of peregrine falcons that has been inhabiting in a nest box on the roof of the Armada Hoffler Building in the Virginia Beach Town Center since 2016 changed residences during the early spring of 2022. As the theme song to the Jefferson’s TV show says, the birds “moved on up to the top of a deluxe apartment in the sky.” In this case, the birds took up residence on a penthouse balcony of the Westin Virginia Beach Town Center – the tallest building in Virginia.
Reese Lukei, Jr., who monitors the pair, observed them hanging around the balcony in mid-March and confirmed four eggs in a planter on the 18th of March. Reese met the owners of the residence, Dr. and Mrs. Hambaz, and worked with them to monitor the pair through the season. Hesitant at first, the Hambaz family adopted the pair and in watching their daily lives regularly, becoming very attached. The brood hatched on 18 April and the two males and two females developed normally within the planter. Both adults, including the female from the Jersey Shore (she arrived in 2021 and replaced previous female) and the male from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, were very attentive parents.
For the safety of the family and the brood, we made a decision in early May to move the birds to Franklin Cliffs in Shenandoah National Park. On 17 May, we pulled the birds from the balcony, banded them and drove them to Franklin Cliffs. The birds had been moved from a site with a great view in Virginia Beach to one with a great view in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rolf Gubler (biologist with NPS), staff and volunteers had prepared the site and met us at Franklin Cliffs to place the birds in the hack box. Rolf and his team would provide food to the birds until their release from the box and then after release until they dispersed from the site. The birds were released on 1 June.
The translocation of birds from the coast of Virginia to the mountains has been a long-term, multi-partner program designed to improve the survival of falcons hatched in hazardous settings and to recolonize the historic mountain range. Birds have been moved annually to Shenandoah National Park since 2000 and Rolf has headed up the program since its initiation. In addition to benefiting the birds, the hacking project has been used successfully by the park to educate the public about restoration of falcons in the mountains.