Two peregrine falcon chicks face off with a park photographer at a nesting site near Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park in 2008. Credit: Courtesy of Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has reopened two of three hiking trails closed since April to protect peregrine falcons as they nest.

The Precipice Trail and Orange & Black Path were reopened Friday, but the Jordan Cliffs Trail remains closed. Park officials closed those areas April 13 to protect the falcons from inadvertent disturbance or harassment.

The protection of nesting areas allowed the hatching or fledging of eight falcon chicks this year, compared to at least five last year and 11 in 2016. Adult peregrine falcons at Valley Cove cliffs successfully raised four chicks that fledged about three weeks ago and soon will be independent of the cliff and their parents, Park Biologist Bruce Connery said.

Yet falcons at the precipice area did not nest successfully this year, ending a streak of success that goes back to spring 2007 and the impact of the Patriot’s Day Blizzard of that year, Connery said.

“It isn’t uncommon for falcon pairs to fail to nest in some years,” Connery said in a statement released Friday. “Over the course of 27 years the precipice site pair has successfully nested 25 times.”

This year’s adult and juvenile falcons will likely stay near the Valley Cove cliff through early fall, but are not expected to be negatively affected by visitors. The Valley Cove Trail has been closed for two years for major repairs and is likely to remain that way for awhile.

Nesting falcons are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance immediately above or directed at nest sites. Continued disturbances can lead to chick mortality or complete nest failure, which slows the recovery of the species in Maine.

The closure of cliffs and associated trails during the nesting season has helped protect more than 140 chicks fledging from cliffs in Acadia National Park over the last 27 years.

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