Nests on lift bridge attracting falcons

HOUGHTON – A pair of falcons are becoming a frequent sight on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

The Michigan Department of Transportation installed two box nests in May on the bridge’s north and south towers in an effort to attract falcons. The hope is that falcons can keep the pigeon population down – “or scare them off a little, if nothing else,” said bridge operator Butch Paavola.

“They make a mess, and they’re bad for iron,” he said. “They take the paint off the bridge.”

Paavola said the pigeons have already changed their habits.

“You can still see them on the ground, but they don’t roost up on the towers like they used to,” he said.

Shortly after the boxes went up, Chris Alquist, program director of the Portage Lake District Library, set up a telescope on the west end of the library trained on the nest on the north tower.

Alquist said the falcons have been a popular attraction. In one instance, she saw the falcon pursue a pigeon before a seagull swooped in to compete.

“The seagull forced the falcon to give up the pigeon and the seagull flew away,” she said. “Nobody got to eat anything.”

Alquist said birders have determined the birds are too young to mate, but might do so next year.

“They’re hanging out on the bridge to see if that’s where they’re going to nest,” she said.

The boxes will remain up for the foreseeable future, Paavola said. However, he didn’t know if MDOT would keep them up if bridge repairs are done in a couple of years.

“They’ll make that call when they get there,” he said.