Love Nest on the Tappan Zee Bridge
The peregrine falcons have returned to their “love shack” on the main span truss of the Tappan Zee Bridge, as they do every year. In fact even as I write this, one of them appears to be sitting on a clutch of eggs. “Appears?” you say. Yes, because there is a falcon cam trained on their nesting box 24/7 year in and year out, and you can see one of the pair sitting for long stretches, unperturbed by all the racket going on around him or her.
The nesting box is protected by a no construction buffer zone during nesting season and maintained by the New York State Thruway Authority. There are nesting boxes on all the bridges spanning the Hudson south of Albany, and many generations of peregrines have been hatched and raised in them.
Peregrine falcons are the fastest animal on earth, clocking in at 242 miles per hour when diving for prey in a maneuver known as a stoop. Their natural predators are the bald eagle and the owl, but it’s not that simple. There is recorded an incident in which a snowy owl snatched a fledgling from the nesting box and was in turn caught and eaten by the enraged peregrine parent.
Because of their speed and agility, peregrines are a symbol of military might. They have been used in the sport of falconry for thousands of years. More prosaically, they are also employed at airports to scare off birds in a program to reduce the number of plane strikes.
Last year’s chicks, Hudson, Zee, and Bridge-ette, were named in a contest by elementary students from ten schools in Rockland and Westchester Counties. Three thousand entries were submitted. The children at Cottage Lane Elementary School in Blauvelt named Zee and those at William O. Schaeffer Elementary School in Tappan named Hudson. Fittingly, the chicks fledged in June, at the end of the school year. It will be interesting to learn how many chicks there are in this year’s clutch and what their names will be.
To watch the falcons in their nesting box, go to www.newnybridge.com.