WATCH: Peregrine falcons return to Michigan bridges - WNEM TV 5

WATCH: Peregrine falcons return to Michigan bridges

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During banding operations last month, a member of a Michigan DNR  team holds one of the four peregrine falcons chicks that successfully hatched at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. (IBA photo by Liz Stewart) During banding operations last month, a member of a Michigan DNR team holds one of the four peregrine falcons chicks that successfully hatched at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. (IBA photo by Liz Stewart)
The main Baraga Area Schools student workers who completed the nest box build, from left, Zach Sackett, Caleb Hansen, Alan DesRoucher, and Lacey Sterbenz, stand with their completed project. (John Filpus photo) The main Baraga Area Schools student workers who completed the nest box build, from left, Zach Sackett, Caleb Hansen, Alan DesRoucher, and Lacey Sterbenz, stand with their completed project. (John Filpus photo)
DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson examines the wing of a peregrine falcon chick after successfully attaching a leg band June 23. The bird was one of three that hatched at a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge this year. (MDOT photo) DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson examines the wing of a peregrine falcon chick after successfully attaching a leg band June 23. The bird was one of three that hatched at a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge this year. (MDOT photo)
MICHIGAN, (WNEM) -

A pair of peregrine falcons have returned to nest on a Michigan bridge again this year, successfully hatching three chicks. 

The Michigan Department of Transportation installed two nest boxes at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in 2012 - one each on the north and south bridge towers. A pair of falcons found the nests the next spring and raised a total of 12 chicks there. 

>>Watch Live: Peregrine falcon nesting activity<< 

In recent years, though, MDOT has noticed the boxes were showing signs of wear. So, officials reached out to a group of high school students. 

"(DNR wildlife technician) Brad Johnson asked if we would be interested in building a pair of peregrine falcon boxes," said Baraga Area Schools industrial arts teacher John Filpus.

The idea turned into a multi-class project. 

"There were a few classes that participated in the design and construction of the nest box," Filpus said. "Our AutoCADD class worked developing a blueprint for the design of the box based on pictures of others built. Some students in Baraga's wood shop and construction trades class built the box."

It took the students about a week to learn more about the falcons and how nest boxes are built. They then designed an initial blueprint for the box. It took about two weeks for the class to build the box, working about one to two hours per day. 

One box was deployed on March 17, just days before the nesting pair returned this spring. The second box will be installed before the next nesting season. 

The new boxes feature tough construction, a trap door in the back, and a roof that folds down to prevent the baby falcons from falling out. 

The group of students also helped name the baby chicks. They settled on Hank, Esther, and Bridgette.

International Bridge

A couple of peregrine falcons also nested on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge in the Upper Peninsula. The pair hatched four chicks this year. 

"This site has hatched 24 falcon chicks since 2010, when we put in the nest box and started counting," said International Bridge Engineer Karl Hansen, "There were more before that but we don't know the number." Hansen said a falcon cam for the International Bridge is also planned.

The chicks were banded by a DNR team on June 19. The color-coded metal bands stay on the falcons' legs through their entire lives and give researchers a way to find out how long they live, where they travel  and whether they are able to raise chicks of their own. 

The baby falcons were named in honor of Canada's first two men and two women in space: Marc, Roberta, Steve, and Julie.

The peregrine falcon has now been removed from the federal endangered species list, but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law.

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