To read NYC Department of Environmental Protection's website about Chris and the Peregrine Falcon (and see lots of great photos of his work, click here.
Alyssa and Moriah, Thank you for contacting me concerning the peregrine falcon management program in New York City. This program is deemed as one of a number of endangered species success stories as the peregrine falcon has been taken off the Endangered Species list nationally (U.S. Dept of The Interior). However, in New York State as with many other eastern U.S. states it remains on a separate State Endangered Species list while the population continues to grow. I have answered your questions below and would like to request notification when your project is completed. Good Luck and I hope you get a chance to observe some of the peregrines in NY. Chris Nadareski
When did you decide to become a wildlife biologist?
I have always been interested in exploring and learning about nature since I was in elementary school. Many of early school projects involved studying animals and plants and environmental issues such as the contamination of the Hudson River. I continued on to study biology in college up to the masters degree level and completed my thesis work on New York City Peregrine Falcons.What's your favorite part of being a wildlife biologist in New York City?
It's unique. Many people are often surprised when they hear me speaking about my work in New York City. Wildlife is thriving not only in New York City's green spaces (about 20% including Parks and wetlands) but amidst the canyons of steel, glass and concrete. I guess I would have to say the public relations component to the work is most fulfilling. Anything you do in NYC, you generally work with other people. It's the same for the peregrine falcon project. I have to coordinate the falcons activities with the management personnel at the facilities where nests are located. They might include engineering, maintenance, security or public relations staff. I also receive valuable information on the project from the general public who keep a close watch on the falcons. Numerous other governmental agencies, volunteers such as wildlife rehabilitators, and co-workers have all contributed to the success of this program.What is your average day like?
Each day is different. The peregrine falcon program is only part of my overall responsibilities for the New York City DEP. Most work days begin at 5:00am, which means I generally wake up around 3:00am. Because of the variety of wildlife projects in New York City and throughout southeastern New York State (New York City Watershed Area), I often report to a different location each day. Most days I begin with a survey of bird populations at the upstate reservoirs to determine the impact they might have on New York City's drinking water. Then it's off to the five boroughs of New York City for the peregrine falcon project. I usually visit at least 5 or 6 nest sites per day. Each site requires contacting the bridge or building the day before to arrange for access. On the bridges, the management crews assist me with either climbing up to or down to the nest using safety harnesses and helmets. The helmets are not only used for safety on the bridge but to protect us from the adult falcons who aggressively attack us while we approach the nest. I collect all the necessary data on each nest site and then enter this information into a computer database when I get back to my office. Some days are very long, especially if the traffic is heavy.How do you find the falcon nests you monitor?
The falcon breeding areas are generally identified by a variety of ways. First of all, the falcons do not build nests. They generally select a high building ledge or bridge girder that has some debris collected in a corner. This resembles a cliff ledge in a more natural setting. Once a ledge is identified I generally place a nest box on the same ledge or one nearby. The falcons generally welcome this assistance and use the boxes year after year. I have listed below some of the ways breeding locations are identified.
I conduct surveys each year at sites suspected of harboring peregrine falcons
The general public including professional and amateur birders will call me or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with the information. The agency I work for has a cooperative agreement with the DEC to manage the peregrine falcon program.
Other governmental agencies including the National Parks Service, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Environmental Protection Agency and others.
The facilities (buildings and bridges) where the falcons establish a territory will call DEP or DEC with the information.
How do you help conserve the peregrine falcon in NY City?
There are several ways we help to protect and enhance the peregrine population in New York City. Through my position with DEP I help to enforce the endangered species laws in New York State. As part of the endangered species act, I work closely with each facility that hosts a peregrine nest to ensure the birds are properly protected from human disturbances and environmental contaminants (chemicals including poisons or pesticides, chips of lead paint and more). I build a nest box for each urban location for the birds to nest in. I collect data each year on the location of each peregrine nest site including how many eggs were laid; how many eggs hatch; how many chicks fly from the nest; and how many young survive the first year. Some of this information is accomplished by banding the young birds with identification tags that I can observe from a distance using binoculars and a spotting scope. I also collect the food or prey remains at each nest to determine the diets and potentially what contaminants (chemicals) that might be ingesting.What's the hardest part of your job?
I would have to say the driving is the hardest part of the job. Because there are so many wildlife projects and about 20 different peregrine nest sites I'm responsible for, I do a tremendous amount of driving.Do you have any programs for kids to learn about or help preserve animals?
Because my staff is so small we often do not have the time to present our programs in school classrooms on the wildlife projects. My department does have an educational outreach program but not one specifically designed in wildlife. There are many opportunities to learn about wildlife throughout the New York City Parks and Gateway National Recreation Area. Both agencies have well established programs that include hands-on participation with a variety of environmental projects.Do you have any interesting stories about the peregrine falcon that you would like to share with us?
Last year (2000), my daughter who was 8 years old at the time, presented a project to her school class on the urban nesting peregrine falcons in New York City. She not only received an A for the project but made her dad very proud. It was later that year when I was asked to give a presentation to an International Bird Conservation Organization called The Peregrine Fund that I realized how important my daughters project was to me. I decided to bring her diorama to the presentation. As I was being introduced to the group which included some world renowned ornithologists, the host highlighted my daughters contribution to the crowd. This was not just a proud moment for dad but a realization that our work has paid off in informing and energizing the younger generation with the hope of continuing these success stories in the future.Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions. We hope that our project will help kids understand and want to save the Peregrine falcon and other wildlife.