On May 14, a Peregrine Falcon chick fledged from its nest on the Benjamin Harrison Bridge in Prince George County and hit the road beneath the nest. Two cars drove over the young falcon without contact; the falcon was in the road for about 45 minutes before a registered transporter was able to successfully rescue the bird.
According to the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB), this nesting site has a long history of poor fledgling success since it’s a very high-risk area; often, the CCB pulls young chicks from this nesting site to “hack out” to other safer, more successful locations. This year’s brood hatched a bit earlier than other peregrines in the state, so the ages weren’t able to be matched with other active peregrine nests. Peregrines historically nest on very high cliff faces, though over time, have adapted to urban areas and may nest on artificial structures such as high-rise buildings and bridges.
When the young falcon was admitted to the Center, it was bright, alert, and standing. Dr. Peach, the Center’s veterinary fellow, examined the bird and found that it had a keel [breastbone] fracture. Radiographs confirmed the fracture and revealed evidence of internal trauma, including damage to the lungs, and free air in the bird’s body cavity, likely due to a ruptured air sac.
Dr. Peach applied a body wrap to help stabilize the bird’s keel fracture, and also gave the bird pain medication before placing it in an oxygen chamber to assist with breathing.
The following day, the falcon was laying down in the oxygen chamber, though its breathing rate and effort were normal. Radiographs will be repeated one week following admission to check on the healing progress of the keel fracture. The young falcon’s prognosis is guarded, due to the nature of the injury.
Though Peregrine Falcons are making a comeback in Virginia, they are still considered state threatened. There are an estimated two dozen breeding pairs in the state.