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Return of matriarch peregrine falcon terminates possible love triangle

GRAND FORKS -- The love triangle that threatened to turn Grand Forks' peregrine falcon nest into a bit of a soap opera has been terminated -- you might say -- and life appears to be settling back into a normal spring groove atop the University of...

GRAND FORKS - The love triangle that threatened to turn Grand Forks’ peregrine falcon nest into a bit of a soap opera has been terminated - you might say - and life appears to be settling back into a normal spring groove atop the University of North Dakota water tower.
Grand Forks raptor expert Tim Driscoll on Monday said he has confirmed the identity of Terminator, the matriarch of Grand Forks’ contribution to the peregrine recovery, who was spotted back in town Thursday.
She also has been seen copulating with Marv, her male counterpart for the past two years.
Peregrine falcon pairs don’t migrate together but often return to the same nesting site.
A possible turf war had emerged a couple of weeks ago when a year-old female named Bristol - hatched and banded in 2015 in Winnipeg - showed up vying for Marv’s affections before Terminator had returned to the nest box atop the UND water tower.
They’d even been seen doing what the birds do in the spring.
But then a female showing all the markings of Terminator flew back into town Thursday, and that was the end of that.
First and only
Terminator is the first and only female peregrine to nest in Grand Forks and has raised young since 2008, first on top of the Smiley Tower, and since 2010, on the UND water tower.
Driscoll was able to confirm Terminator’s band number over the weekend.
Whether the two females ever fought over Marv isn’t known for sure, but Bristol now has skipped the country and has taken up residence with a new male falcon in Winnipeg.
Driscoll said he talked to a Winnipeg raptor expert who confirmed the tryst; news travels fast on the falcon front.
Bristol didn’t waste any time, either.
“Here’s what I’m sure of - Terminator is at the site, she and Marv are getting along well, and Bristol has been ID’d by her band number up in Winnipeg,” Driscoll said. “That’s exactly what I was hoping: (Bristol) has a positive ID from our end, we know for sure she was here, and now she’s in Winnipeg and Terminator is here.”
The female was dubbed Terminator in 2006 after she was banded as a chick in Brandon, Manitoba.
Driscoll and others who band peregrines often name the birds because it’s easier to remember a name than a band number, which in Terminator’s case is T/2. He banded Marv in 2013 in Fargo, naming the male after Fargo TV personality Marv Bossart, who died in April of that year.
Terminator’s return to Grand Forks was the earliest ever, but that’s no surprise, given the early spring. Previous years, she first was sighted in Grand Forks on April 9, 2008, with subsequent first sightings April 10, 2009; March 27, 2010; April 7 or 8, 2012; March 26, 2012; March 26, 2013; April 6, 2014; and March 29, 2015.
Happy ending
All things considered, the outcome of this peregrine saga was as positive as Driscoll could have wanted.
Terminator’s back with her mate, and Bristol appears to have made a quick rebound.
“She’s hanging around with an experienced male,” Driscoll said. “We’ll let that settle in and see what happens.”
Call it another success in the storied recovery of a species once on the brink of extinction. Fargo and Grand Forks have the only known nesting peregrines in North Dakota, while Minnesota has more than 50 nesting sites across the state, the Department of Natural Resources says.
Driscoll credits the efforts of captive breeding programs and reintroduction efforts across North America for the species’ rebound after the chemical DDT decimated populations in the 1950s. Grand Forks was a latecomer to the recovery story, Driscoll says, but he now looks forward to the peregrines’ return every spring.
“As soon as that happens, you get this sense of relief like, ‘OK, we’re good,’” he said. “I say goodbye to them (every fall) and say, ‘See you next year.’”

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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