The U.S. Navy is set to send the decommissioned supercarrier USS Saratoga from Newport, Rhode Island to Texas to be dismantled, but a family of peregrine falcons nesting on board has caused a delay. The Navy isn't moving the ship until the fledglings are ready to take flight.
Naval Station Newport contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the falcons were discovered in the spring. Wildlife officials estimated that the birds should be finished rearing the chicks by mid-August, and recommended waiting until then to move the Saratoga.
Lisa Rama, spokeswoman for Naval Station Newport, commented, "We wanted to do the right thing by these birds." The peregrine falcon is likewise federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and moving the carrier while the birds are nesting could be considered a crime.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on Earth, and was once clocked at 242 miles per hour during a hunting dive, and eats mostly other birds after knocking them out mid-flight.
Here a peregrine takes down a pigeon:
Here a gyrfalcon, of the same family Falconidae as the peregrine. takes down a Canadian goose:
Peregrine falcons were once an endangered species, after the widespread use of the pesticide DDT began to cause thinning of the birds' eggshells. Though, after a 1973 ban of the poison, peregrine populations rebounded.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, there are currently about 10 nesting pairs in that state. The peregrine can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme polar regions, very high mountains and most tropical rainforests. The only major ice-free land mass the bird is absent from is New Zealand.
Decommissioned ships are ideal spots for falcons to build their nests, as there are many ledges and high perches to watch for prey. The contract to scrap the Saratoga was handed to Texas company ESCO Marine in May.
Image via Wikimedia Commons