The first three peregrine falcon chicks retrieved from the nesting box on the roof of the Indiana Michigan Power Center in Fort Wayne on May 24 were females, which pre-schoolers from the Early Childhood Alliance named Jojo, Skittles and Coco.
The peregrine falcon parents nesting atop the building, Moxie and Jamie, also had a male who was banded, and the students named him Flash.
They were banded by John Castrale, a wildlife biologist, who assured everyone the falcon chicks were in good shape and weren’t hungry because they had just had breakfast.
“We’re going to take one of them out at a time, and we’re going to give them a little bit of jewelry, a colored leg band with some numbers on it and letters,” he said.
“With binoculars, we can read that from quite a distance so we can identify the birds later on,” Castrale said. “The babies will be leaving the nest in about two to three weeks and then they’ll hang around here for a while until they’re independent.
“You know, they learn how to feed; they feed on other birds. And when that happens, they leave the area, and then in the next couple to three years, they’ll try to establish their own territory or site. And they’ll hopefully attract a bird of the other sex and find a site to nest and lay eggs.”
Every falcon chick hatched over the years at IMPC has been banded by Castrale, initially as part of the job he held with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, then more recently as a volunteer with the department.
Banding helps biologists track the movements of Midwestern peregrine falcons, and they need to do that because the population of the species is low. When mature, most young birds tend to settle within 50 to 200 miles of where they were raised.
Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation volunteers helped with the banding and held the chicks to provide students and others there a close-up look at the birds.
ECA officials thought preschoolers were at a good age for engagement with the program “because they would actually be able to do some study,” Monica Chamberland, the nonprofit’s chief development officer, said afterward.
“I don’t know if you heard the one little kid say, ‘Oh, they fly 200 miles per hour.’ They have spent some time learning about the birds as well as watching the birds from the time that they were an egg,” she said.
Chamberland said, “We were able to integrate this experience leading up to it as an early learning experience. So, it’s not conservation, necessarily, but we look at all different kinds of integrated subject teaching.”
Tracy Warner, I&M corporate communications manager, said in an email, “Quality of life and stewardship on environmental matters is important. I&M believes in both helping our communities support wildlife and a cleaner environment.”
He said, “Historically our customers enjoy the Falcon Cam, and we are thrilled that the commercials ... bring the partnership with the Indiana DNR and the Soarin’ Hawk group to a wider audience. I&M does not use customer funds through rates to pay for any image advertising.”
The company invites a classroom or other audience of children to observe the banding and to name the chicks each year, and the students learn to appreciate the region’s natural resources, which contribute to its quality of life.
“Promoting to our next generation of customers can only help in promoting a quality of life that supports the communities we call home,” Warner said.
This year’s group from the Early Childhood Alliance was “quite creative in some of the names they have chosen,” he said.
I&M’s parent company is American Electric Power, and the AEP Foundation recently donated $100,000 to Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation for its new campus in Huntertown. Operations for the nonprofit, which is dedicated to conserving the local raptor population through education and rehabilitation, is spread out across Allen County.
The new facility at 17688 Lima Road, with a recovery enclosure and habitats designed to provide a natural setting for raptors while minimizing maintenance, will bring everything under one roof.