A full nest at the Port power plant

Four peregrine falcon chicks — two of which were named for Riveredge pioneers — add to remarkable comeback of species that was extinct east of the Mississippi

A QUARTET OF peregrine falcon chicks that live in a nesting box at the We Energies power plant in Port Washington were introduced by Greg Septon (left) of the Peregrine Falcon Recovery Program and Mike Grisar, a We Energies biologist who, with Septon, manages the utility’s peregrine program. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Four sleepy peregrine falcon chicks made their debut last week, little balls of fluffy down brought from the roof of the We Energies power plant to the conference room downstairs for banding and naming.

The chicks, who were about three weeks old, were born to Brinn, an adult female who was hatched in northern Minnesota and has been at the Port plant for five years, and Beasley, who was born at the former Milwaukee County power plant and is spending his second year in Port.

“Having four chicks is awesome,” Mike Grisar, a We Energies biologist who, with Septon, manages the utility’s peregrine program, said.

The pair actually had five chicks, but one died.

“It was quite a bit smaller than the rest,” said Greg Septon of the Peregrine Falcon Recovery Program, who banded the birds.

He noted that 50% to 70% of all peregrine chicks die in the first year.

Each bird is banded with two bands, one on each leg, that allows biologists to follow the animal throughout their life.

The birds were also named, two by representatives of Riveredge Nature Center in the Town of Saukville, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the others by the We Energies staff.

The first bird, a male, was named Larsen in honor of Andy Larsen, Riveredge’s first executive director and the man identified by many as the personification of the nature center. 

The second bird, a female, was named Lillie in honor of Isabel Lillie, president of the Whitefish Bay Garden Club when it founded Riveredge.

“We’re trying to honor our founders,” Natalie Dorrler of Riveredge said.

The third bird, a female, was named MacKena and the fourth, a male, was dubbed Shea — monikers suggested by Port plant manager Terry Hoffmann in honor of his granddaughters MacKena and Everly Shea.

The peregrines will be on the wing in three or four weeks, and within three weeks after that the young will leave the nest, Septon said.

“Three weeks ago, they were the size of my thumb,” Grisar said. “Three weeks from now, they’ll be about adult size. It’s amazing how fast they grow.”

Peregrine falcons are a migrating bird that heads to the Gulf Coast for winter, he said, although in recent years birders have found some peregrines that overwinter in Wisconsin, often in the nesting boxes found at utilities and on tall buildings.

“You never know where these birds will go,” Septon said, talking of one peregrine he banded in Wisconsin that was later found in Venezuela.

The peregrine has made a remarkable comeback since it was found to be extinct east of the Mississippi River in 1964, Septon said. 

The birds historically nested on the cliffs over the Mississippi River, but as the DDT that was once used on crops built up in their bodies, it caused the eggs laid by the birds to have thinner shells that couldn’t support the weight of the parent during incubation.

Recovery efforts began in 1987, when 103 birds were released in five years.

Today, he said, there are about 36 nesting pairs in Wisconsin that produced more than 100 chicks. Many of these birds nest in boxes like the one at the Port power plant.

Sine 1997, 250 chicks have hatched at the five We Energies nesting boxes, Grisar said, including 63 at the Port plant.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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