Indiana State University Newsroom

Peregrine falcon nest box relocated

February 10, 2015

With the impending demolition of Statesman Towers, biologists at Indiana State University have relocated the nesting box for a pair of peregrine falcons.

The new box was placed Dec. 18 on the southeast corner of the Sycamore Building, located downtown between Ohio Street and Wabash Avenue and owned by Sunset Harbor Inc., said Steven Lima, professor of biology at Indiana State.

The 6-year-old male falcon from Indianapolis and his mate have yet to use the new box, but their old Statesman Tower nest box was removed about a month ago.

"We hope they move when they start demolition over there soon. It should be enough of a disruption to get them to at least go someplace else," Lima said. "We do not know if they have found the new box or not. We'll see what happens."

Air-conditioning units have been removed from the towers, and the one-story connecting structure between the twin 15-story towers is first up for demolition, Lima said.

"One of the reasons we're starting the demolition in the winter is to get them to move," Lima said. "The preference was to (raze the buildings) in the spring, but that would have been a problem. So the university decided they can start on some stuff during the winter -- just to make it uncomfortable (for the falcons), so they go somewhere else before they start nesting."

Peregrine falcons lay their eggs the first week in April like "clockwork," Lima said.

The Statesman Towers location has been the site of two successful hatchings -- the first of which for the formerly endangered species in 50 years. The first hatching in 2012 resulted in three chicks. Last year, the male mated with a different female and hatched two chicks, which were lost about a month later in a severe spring storm.

Lima said he's been getting concerned emails from the falcons' fans.

"The university has been really good about accommodating these birds over the years, even in timing the destruction of the buildings," Lima said.

Based on the pair's hunting habits, biologists say they think the falcons prefer the eastern and western areas of Terre Haute, rather than southern parts of the city. A falcon decoy to be placed on the new box is currently on order.

"They'll see another falcon, which will really tick them off and get them to come over," Lima said. "My guess is if they see something that looks like another falcon, they'll come over ... and notice another box."

If anyone sees the falcons on top of the Sycamore Building, they're asked to contact the university, Lima said.

"Hopefully, we can get them to move. I knew removing the nest box would not be enough," Lima said. "I hope the combination of noise and putting up a decoy can at least get them to go over there."

Biology graduate student Kathleen Spicer described Sunset Harbor's management as gracious for letting them use the roof of the building, which is the tallest structure in the city and the birds' best option. The relationship will be low-maintenance, she said.

"The more we can leave them alone and not disturb them, the better off they are," Spicer said.

For now, they're still frequenting Statesman Towers' familiar cliff-like structure.

"Going up to take down the nest box, the male and female were in the area. They were none too happy to see us on that roof. They made their vocal displeasure obvious," Spicer said.

Peregrine falcons became endangered in the 1960s because of the wide use of the insecticide DDT that poisoned their food supply. As top predators, the birds absorbed large amounts of the chemical from ingesting their prey and became unable to reproduce.

The falcons were removed from the endangered species list in 1999. In the Midwest, there are about 300 pairs, which are still monitored by wildlife officials.

"They're no longer endangered and they're no longer in trouble, so it's not a big blow to their population if they miss a season," Lima said. "If they don't go (to the new nest box), they don't go. They make their own decisions. So, we might miss a year. I doubt they'll abandon the city - it's their city."

-30- -- A female peregrine falcon flies above the Statesman Towers in 2012 as officials remove her chicks for banding. -- Steven Lima, professor of biology at Indiana State University, holds a peregrine falcon chick in 2012. -- Kathleen Spicer, a biology graduate student at Indiana State University, holds a peregrine falcon in 2014. -- John Castrale, nongame bird biologist for Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife, cleans out the peregrine falcon nest box atop Indiana State University's Statesman Towers in 2014.

Contact: Steven Lima, professor of biology, Indiana State University, 812-237-3677 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or