Look Out Below: Watch for falcon chicks on Lift Bridge fallen out of nesting boxes

Photo by Joe Youngman A young peregrine falcon is seen on a fence. Copper Country Audubon and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are asking people who may find falcon chicks, which may have fallen out of the nesting boxes on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, to call police to move them.

HANCOCK/HOUGHTON — A mating pair of peregrine falcons have been laying eggs and raising chicks in two nesting boxes on the north and south towers of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge since 2013, and they’re back this year.

Copper Country Audubon and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources partnered to place the nesting boxes on the towers in 2012, and the two organizations are asking the public to watch out for any chicks which may have fallen out of the boxes.

Brad Johnson, DNR wildlife technician with the Baraga office, said although there have been no reports of chicks falling out of the boxes since they were installed, they might at some time, and it’s important for people who may find one to know what to do — and what not to do.

Johnson said if a bird is found on the roadway of the bridge, and it’s safe to do so, they probably should be moved. Otherwise, the Hancock (482-3102) or Houghton (482-2121) police departments should be called. Officers have been trained to properly handle the birds.

Johnson said even young birds have sharp talons, and they really shouldn’t be handled unless absolutely necessary.

“It’s a threatened species,” he said.

Because of Michigan Department of Transportation regulations controlling what kinds of signs can be placed on the bridge, Johnson said there will be no sign advising people what to do if a fallen chick is found on the bridge.

“MDOT’s pretty restrictive about what they can put on the bridge,” he said.

Johnson said the two nesting boxes were installed in 2012, and the falcons soon occupied them.

“They showed up in 2013,” he said.

It is probably the same mating pair coming back each year, Johnson said. In 2014, they had four chicks, in 2015 three, and in 2016, they had four chicks. This year they have three chicks in the south tower box, and the plan is to band them next week.

“We try to band them between four and five weeks old,” he said.