By Megan McKnight, USAG Bavarian Environmental Division
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – During a routine inspection of the Forest House in June, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Environmental Division staff member Stefan Haertl overheard a nearby peregrine falcon cry and observed an adult bird enter the historic Grafenwoehr Water Tower. Upon further investigation personnel from the Environmental Division were “pleasantly surprised” to find a pair of falcons, and their nestling, occupying the location.
The Water Tower was previously a known kestrel nesting site, so discovering the peregrine falcons was quite unexpected.
This pair represents the second breeding pair of peregrine falcons observed within GTA, and the first observed falcon nest within the Water Tower. This species of bird pairs for life and typically returns to previous nesting locations. Now that this pair are established with in the Water Tower, the Environmental Division may be able to expect their return next year.
Populations of peregrine falcons could help manage nuisance bird species across the Training Area. Known as the fastest bird in the world, peregrine falcons can reach speeds of up to 320 kph during a hunting dive, or stoop. These spectacular dives may be observed over the Tower Barracks Parade Field as the falcons hunt pigeons and other birds.
As of mid-June, the nestling has fledged – left the nesting site in the Water Tower – but it can still be observed flying around the Parade Field with its parents learning to hunt and begging for food.
Peregrine falcons were once widely distributed across the world, and in the 1950s there were an estimated 900 breeding pairs throughout Germany. By the early 1980s the population declined dramatically, due to widespread use of pesticides like DDT, environmental toxins like PCB and nest robberies for illegal trade and falconry. During this time, populations in northern and eastern Germany were extirpated and only 60 breeding pairs remained within Bavaria and Baden Wuerttemberg.
Today, due to environmental regulations that restrict the use of certain chemicals and toxins as well the conservation efforts of many, there are between 210 to 230 breeding pairs in Bavaria.