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Peregrine falcon chicks ready to leave nests at Minnesota Power plants

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

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Spencer Bloch, who works at Minnesota Power's Boswell Energy Center, holds one of the three female peregrine falcon chicks that hatched there. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Power)
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Five peregrine falcon chicks hatched earlier this spring in nesting boxes at two Minnesota Power plants. The chicks were recently named and banded, and two of the chicks have already fledged their nesting boxes.

The chicks were born at Hibbard Renewable Energy Center in Duluth and Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset. Both locations have a history of hatching falcons and working with the Raptor Resource Project. More than 80 falcons have hatched at the Boswell plant since 1993. More than 20 peregrines have hatched at Hibbard since 2008.

“The longtime nests have provided the perfect habitat for the peregrine falcons and have helped to increase their population in our region,” said Kelley Eldien, senior corporate communications specialist for Minnesota Power.

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Minnesota Power employee Doug Braff holds one of the three female peregrine falcon chicks at Boswell Energy Center. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Power)

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The Raptor Resource Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and strengthening raptor populations. Its efforts include building and maintaining nesting boxes at power companies across the Midwest. The project also bands the chicks that hatch at those boxes, which allows researchers to track the birds’ behavior and location without hurting them. It visited both locations earlier this month and banded the chicks.

Efforts like these are important for peregrine falcons. The raptor was placed on the endangered species list in the 1970s after the pesticide DDT nearly erased the population. Power companies that have provided nesting boxes at their plants have played a tremendous role in recovering the population, according to a news release from Minnesota Power.

The two chicks at Hibbard Renewable Energy Center hatched May 8. The male and female chicks were named Orville and Wilbur Right Side Up, a twist on the Wright brothers. The two chicks have already fledged the nesting box.

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The chicks at Hibbard and Boswell sport new identification bands. Chicks hatched at Hibbard on May 8 and at Boswell May 19-21. With support from a safety team, banders climb the stack at Hibbard to the nest box located on a catwalk. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Power)

The three female chicks at Boswell Energy Center hatched between May 19 and 21. They were named Amelia Earthworm, Joe Racing Homer and Neil Windstrong. The names were inspired by Amelia Earhart, Joe Gomer and Neil Armstrong. These chicks were born less than two weeks after the Hibbard chicks and are still preparing to fledge their box.

The birds' names were twists on influential people in aviation history and the Minnesota Powers customers voted on their favorite names.

“The annual peregrine falcon egg watch is an exciting time for Minnesota Power and avid bird watchers from around the country, who tune into our FalconCam from March through June,” Eldrien said. “We look forward to the falcons returning to the nests every year and enjoy the anticipation of the chicks hatching, being banded, then leaving the nests at our facilities.”

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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