By: Bryan Watts
The Virginia breeding population of peregrine falcons continued its slow advance in 2023. The known population reached a record 35 breeding pairs. The population has exceeded 28 pairs for the past eight years. This result continues the trend that has been ongoing since the first pair re-established a nesting territory in 1979. The number of known pairs continued to be concentrated on the Coastal Plain with 26 pairs compared to the Piedmont (5 pairs) and mountains (4 pairs). The highest concentration in the state continues to be along the seaside of the lower Delmarva Peninsula. This highly productive area supported 10 breeding pairs in 2023.
The known Virginia population produced a record 70 young in 2023. The pair on the Tappahannock Bridge produced its second 5-chick brood in three years. The remaining pairs produced more normal broods of 4 chicks (7 pairs), 3 chicks (8 pairs), 2 chicks (6 pairs) and 1 chick (1 pair). Broods continue to experience difficulties navigating urban environments with some chicks from bridges and buildings being picked up from the ground and taken for evaluation during the first week post fledging. Chicks from both the Pamunkey Bridge and the Coleman Bridge were hit by cars and killed soon after fledging.
Young peregrines wander after they disperse from the natal territory. In 2023, Virginia birds were photographed and identified near Harrisburg, PA, in Columbia, PA, Brigantine, NJ, Morris Beach, NJ, Silver Springs, MD and Raleigh, NC.
We very much appreciate the large and dedicated community of people who help to monitor and manage the Virginia peregrine population. We also appreciate the bird watchers who report banded falcons. The recovery of the population over the past four decades is a tribute to the many people who have contributed their time and effort.