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How are the Minnesota Power plant peregrines doing? 'Thriving'

Raptor Research Project experts report that falcon chicks atop power plant stacks are "well-fed, healthy and nearly ready to take flight."

A white, fuzzy falcon chick fluffs its feathers and opens its mouth.
Take it from the experts: This is what a thriving peregrine falcon chick looks like. One chick defends a sibling from unexpected visitors atop the stack at Hibbard Renewable Energy Center in Duluth.
Contributed / Minnesota Power
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DULUTH — Sometimes a FalconCam isn't good enough: You just have to climb up there and check on the chicks yourself.

That's what teams from the Raptor Research Project and Minnesota Power did recently, climbing stacks at Duluth's Hibbard Renewable Energy Center and Cohasset's Boswell Energy Center to pop in on the peregrine falcon families nesting there as part of a long-running effort to preserve the region's raptor populations.

A man wearing a blue shirt and white helmet holds an adult peregrine falcon atop a power plant stack, with green vegetation visible far below in the background.
Minnesota Power employee Adam Aili held Lucia, an adult peregrine falcon resident atop the stack at Cohasset's Boswell Energy Center, while her chicks were banded for tracking purposes.
Contributed / Minnesota Power
Two men wearing yellow gloves pass a falcon between themselves high atop a power plant stack, with a river and verdant landscape visible far below in the background.
Minnesota Power employee Zach Johnson passed a chick to Adam Aili during banding activities June 9 at Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset.
Contributed / Minnesota Power

The teams descended to file a glowing report. "Three chicks hatched at each site this spring and all six appeared well-fed, healthy and nearly ready to take flight," according to a news release from Minnesota Power.
Typically, the teams that visit newborn chicks each spring band the birds' legs for tracking purposes. This year, that was complicated by an outbreak of avian influenza.

The Cohasset birds were successfully banded, but a moratorium on bird handling was still in effect last month when the researchers dropped in on the Duluth chicks — who will thus be flying below the radar, so to speak, when they take off this summer.

The five birds, with aviation-themed names, hatched at Duluth and Cohasset energy centers.

Local schoolkids have named all six chicks. Cohasset Elementary School students named the Boswell chicks Frightful, Hawkeye and Tiberius. The latter is neither a reference to ancient history, as in Rome, nor to future history, as in "Star Trek": It's inspired by the hawk voiced by Albert Brooks in the movie "The Secret Life of Pets."

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STARBASE Duluth program participants gave the Hibbard chicks the less imperious names of Agrios, Flecha and Louis.

Over the years, a lot of hawks have grown up on the stacks. According to the news release, "more than 35 chicks have hatched at Hibbard and more than 85 have hatched at Boswell since nest boxes were installed at the two sites." To see for yourself what's up — literally — visit mnpower.com/falconcam.

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at jgabler@duluthnews.com or 218-279-5536.
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