In a sure sign of spring, a male and female peregrine falcon have converged at a nest box on the UND water tower, but the female’s identity is a mystery, and her presence could result in a turf war when and if Terminator—the female peregrine who has nested in Grand Forks since 2008—returns to the site.
Grand Forks raptor expert and licensed bander Tim Driscoll said the male is Marv, which he confirmed by the band number on the bird’s leg. This will be Marv’s third season of mating in Grand Forks.
Driscoll names the peregrines he bands, saying it’s easier to remember the birds by name than by a band number. Grand Forks and Fargo have the only two confirmed peregrine nests in North Dakota.
Driscoll said the new female has a black-colored band on her leg, but he hasn’t been able to get a get a look at the band number to learn more about her past. She may have been produced in Winnipeg, he said, because banders in the Manitoba capital traditionally use black leg bands.
Driscoll, by comparison, uses bands that are black and red.
Female peregrines are larger than males, he said, and the birds don’t travel together during migration.
Marv returned on Monday to Grand Forks, Driscoll said—two days earlier than last year. In 2014, his first year in Grand Forks, Marv flew April 21 into town. Terminator, who was hatched in 2006 in Manitoba, traditionally hasn’t shown up in Grand Forks until late March or early April, Driscoll said.
Feathers could fly
This will be Terminator’s ninth year of nesting in Grand Forks if she returns, Driscoll said. And if she returns and the mysterious female still is here, feathers might fly—both figuratively and literally.
The anticipation of the drama that could unfold is part of the fascination, Driscoll said.
“We don’t know if Terminator comes back, but if she does, the basic assumption would be there’d be a bit of a territorial fight,” Driscoll said. “The assumption would be (Terminator) would win because she has more at stake because it’s her nest box.”
That’s not a given, though, he conceded.
“To make it more complicated, she’s got Marv, and maybe he won’t take to this new lady,” Driscoll said. “He’s letting her sit in the box, but that doesn’t mean he will mate with her. It’s never this simple, but generally speaking, when there are territorial disputes, it’s female-on-female and male-on-male.”
In the meantime, Driscoll said he’s going to keep trying to get a better look at the number on the new female’s leg band, which is easier said than done.
Worst-case scenario, a new female is better than no female, he said, but Terminator is his sentimental favorite.
“It’s better to have her here than no Terminator, but she’s not even late yet, so I’m not too worried about that,” Driscoll said. “If things hold, we expect her to show up in a couple of weeks.
“I hope we have a few more years of Terminator left.”