Peregrine falcon chicks total 8 at Acadia, Precipice Trail now open

Three nests at Acadia National Park produced eight peregrine falcon chicks in 2018, making for a successful year for the state-endangered birds despite the unusual failure of a nest at the Precipice.

peregrine falcon chick

Park wildlife biologist, Bruce Connery, holds a peregrine chick that has just been lowered from its scrape, or nest, for banding. Acadia National Park photo.

According to Bruce Connery, the park’s wildlife biologist, four peregrine falcon chicks fledged at Valley Cove over Somes Sound; two at Jordan Cliffs and two on Ironbound Island. The nest at Jordan Cliffs is a nice story because park leaders in late May had initially feared that a nest there had also failed.

In an email, Connery wrote that a visitor in early June reported the nest at Jordan Cliffs and added that “we are thrilled as we were able to band both chicks.”

The park reopened the popular Precipice Trail and a section of the Orange & Black Path on July 13, according to a park press release, which is earlier than usual.

The Precipice Trail, which goes up the east face of Champlain Mountain, is usually closed from late March or early April until late July or early August each year because of nesting peregrine falcons, but a nest failed this year at the Precipice.

Connery said in a press release that it is not uncommon for falcon pairs to fail to nest in some years. He noted that this year was only the second time in 27 years that a pair has failed to nest successfully at the Precipice. In addition, Beech Cliff above Echo Lake did not yield any falcon chicks this year or for the past several years and Connery has said he does not know the reasons for that.

While Precipice Trail opens early, Jordan Cliffs Trail remains closed

The Jordan Cliffs Trail, also usually closed from late March or early April until late July or early August, will remain closed for the time being because of the presence of nesting falcons

precipice trail

Climbng more than 900 feet in less than a mile, the Precipice Trail is not for the faint of heart, out of shape or people afraid of heights.

The total of eight peregrine falcon chicks at the park this year is up from 5 in 2017 but down from 11 in 2016.

There was also a chick of the peregrine falcon at Ironbound Island in 2016 and two chicks on the island in 2014. The park holds a conservation easement on Ironbound, a privately owned island in Frenchman Bay.

The failure of the nest at the Precipice was discovered in late May. The Trails Crew was also repairing a footbridge that was damaged over the winter on the Precipice Trail.

More than 140 peregrine falcon chicks have fledged from the cliffs at Acadia over the last 27 years.

peregrine faclon chicks

The peregrine falcon chick may look cute and fluffy in this 2017 photo taken at Acadia National Park. But once full grown, it can dive after prey at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. (Photo courtesy of Erin Wheat)

According to the Nature Conservancy, the peregrine falcon vanished from the eastern U.S. by the mid-1960s and then nearly from the rest of the nation because of widespread use of the DDT pesticide, which was later banned. The peregrine ate smaller birds that had consumed seeds and insects, for example, that were contaminated with DDT and the chemical caused thin eggshells that would shatter under the weight of adult peregrines and prevent the hatching of peregrine falcon chicks.

Under an effort known as “hacking,” the peregrine falcon was reintroduced into Acadia after DDT was banned.

The peregrine falcon was listed as a federal endangered species in the early 1970s, but was removed from that federal list in 1999. The first successful nest in 35 years in Acadia occurred in 1991.

The resident breeding population of peregrines remains endangered under Maine’s Endangered Species Act.

peregrine falcons

Visitors look up at the Precipice of Champlain Mountain for peregrine falcons during Memorial Day weekend, before it was clear whether the peregrine falcon nest failed in 2018.

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at acadiaonmymind.com. They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores is a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe. Dan is a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass. They are married and live outside Boston.