Four baby peregrine falcons born on Marine Pkwy. Br.

Photo courtesy MTA
By Philip Newman

With the arrival of spring has come four newly hatched peregrine falcons in their perch atop the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial bridge.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels officials said the birds hatched last month and were recently banded by wildlife specialist Chris Nadareski, of the city Department of Environmental Protection Wildlife Studies Division.

The city’s new roster of seven chicks also includes two on the Bronx side of the Throgs Neck Bridge and one on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

“We provide the nesting boxes and give the DEP wildlife expert access to check the eggs and band them, but our primary goal is to just let them be,” said Verrazano-Narrows Maintenance Superintendent Daniel Fortunato.

During mating season up to the point when they learn to fly and leave their nest, maintenance workers limit any contact since the parents, particularly the mother, can be aggressive. Other than providing the nest boxes, there is no cost to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Urban falcons like to nest atop bridges, church steeples and high-rise buildings because they provide an excellent vantage point for hunting prey, including pigeons and small birds.

Peregrine falcons were nearly wiped out in the 1960s because of pesticides in their food and remain on the state Department of Environment Conservation’s endangered birds list.

The season’s newest avian residents are as follows:

• Belle, a female, and Jack, Bennett Field and Gil, all males, were named for Belle Harbor, Jacob Riis Park, Floyd Bennett Field and baseball great Gi Hodges, whose name was added to the bridge in 1978. The falcon siblings currently call the Marine Parkway Bridge’s 215-foot Rockaway tower home.

• Leif, a male, was named for the Norwegian explorer Leif Ericson, who is honored each May on Bay Ridge’s Norwegian Constitution Day. There is also a park in Bay Ridge named for the explorer. Leif’s temporary home is atop one of the Verrazano’s 693-foot towers.

• Skye and Bayside, two families named Fort Schuyler and Bayside, can be found 360 feet atop the Bronx tower of the Throgs Neck Bridge.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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