The Friends of the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park winter lecture series continues on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. when Ben Wurst presents a program on peregrine falcons at the park’s visitors center.
The habitat manager for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Wurst said the birds are raptors and are the “fastest animals in the world,” having been clocked at 240 mph during their bombardier-type dives. Unlike ospreys, which dine primarily on fish, peregrines eat other birds and bats and catch their prey on the wing; they are sometimes called duck hawks.
“They’re a smaller breed of raptors,” he said. “They average 24 inches in length and have a similar size wingspan.”
According to Wurst, peregrine falcons are making a decent comeback from being extirpated from North America in the 1940s because of the persistence of DDT and other pesticides in the environment. They were reintroduced in the 1970s and, according to the Audubon Society, there are now 1,650 breeding pairs in the U.S. and Canada.
“Around here, you can spot them in Holgate during the fall migration,” he said. “They also like to sit on water towers.”
Wurst will also provide an update on a peregrine nesting tower built last winter in the marsh off Route 72 to the south of the new Causeway Bridge.
For more information on the lecture series, call 609-494-2016.