SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. – Many people have discovered the joy of birdwatching as they sampled new activities during this time of closed workplaces, social distancing and cabin fever.
Yet while that fledgling interest is a potential boon for bird conservation, another result of the pandemic has hampered researchers studying peregrine falcons nesting among city high-rises.
Dr. Bob Sargent of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has a network of metro Atlanta residents who monitor peregrines on downtown buildings. Although Georgia’s capitol is on the southern edge of the breeding range of the world’s fastest birds, here as in some other cities tall manmade structures have proven an attractive substitute for the cliff faces where peregrines would usually nest.
Experts believe one or more pairs nest in metro Atlanta each year. The issue is finding them.
That’s where the falcons network comes in. Sargent, a program manager with DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, checks with his contacts each February through May. While some members are serious birders, many are office workers and building managers who never watched birds until “they were at their desk on the 40th floor, glanced out the window and found themselves the object of a peregrine’s stare” – and a falcon watcher was born.
This year, however, the network was off the air because of closures related to COVID-19, Sargent said.
“I’ve received a couple of recent reports of falcons seen at SunTrust Plaza and the Four Seasons Hotel, as well as a sighting near Piedmont Park and at least four of a lone falcon from the towers at Zonolite Park, but nothing like the log of sightings I would usually receive.”
With nesting season over, it’s too late to pinpoint eyries, or nest sites. Sargent’s focus now is finding “brown falcons,” a sign successful nesting occurred. First-year