Catching the world’s fastest bird wasn’t in the job description when Ryan Wisniewski joined DTE Energy as a summer co-op at the Monroe Power Plant. But he didn’t mind.
“Not at all, I enjoy it,” said Wisniewski, who is studying environmental engineering at the University of Toledo.
Wisniewski and several fellow Monroe Power Plant employees teamed up earlier this summer to save four peregrine falcon chicks that were nesting on the building’s roof. Perched on a ledge about 100 feet above the ground, the chicks hatched in late spring and immediately grabbed the attention of plant personnel who were concerned the birds would fall out of the nest before they were able fly. So they hung a large net below the nest, and alerted coworkers of the situation.
“Just about everyone (was) aware of what’s going,” said Tom Foxworthy, a work management specialist at Monroe who also volunteers on environmental and wildlife projects at the plant. “We roped off the area to keep people away so no one would get hurt.”
The preparation and teamwork saved the chicks’ lives as each one – three females and one male – fell out of the nest over a 10-day period in late May and early June and landed safely in the net below. The chicks were then turned over to professional falconers Mark Tomich and Dave Hogan, who have helped rehabilitate other sick or injured wildlife, including bald eagles, rescued on the plant’s property in recent years.
“We would have lost all of the chicks if it wasn’t for their efforts,” Hogan said.
That’s an important contribution to the recovery of bird that was nearly extinct in the U.S. in the 1970s because of the effects of DDT and other persistent pesticides. Today, the population is steady and there are an estimated 1,650 breeding pairs in North America. An adult peregrine falcon is one of the world’s fastest birds – flying up to 200 miles per hour – and preying on other birds in the sky.
Hogan kept the chicks in captivity for two to six weeks depending on their condition, providing a steady diet of quail and time to practice flying and landing. He returned to the Monroe plant in late June with the chicks to release them near the area where the nest was located; the parent peregrine falcons were still nearby.
In order to be tracked by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the chicks were photographed, banded and named – Houdini is joined by his sisters Kristen, Ginger and Wanda – before being released.