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Falcons Help Fight Corrosion on International Span

Friday, April 20, 2018

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The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, which crosses from Michigan into Ontario, plays host to more than human traffic—a pair of nesting peregrine falcons now call the span home, providing an unexpected benefit to the bridge itself.

Bridge engineer Karl Hansen told 9 & 10 News that nearly 2 million cars cross the span annually. Onsite webcams allow people to both check on traffic conditions and the bridge’s residential raptors.

Two Birds, One Bridge

Hansen believes the birds are the same pair that first showed up in 1999. With peregrines being wiped out in the area in the 1950s due to pesticide use, and subsequently being reintroduced in the 1980s, it soon became clear the raptors enjoyed manmade structures.

“It’s on top of a pier, a big concrete pier about 120 [feet] in the air, and they are over the Locks where they are not easy to see from the ground, almost impossible,” said Hansen.

Unfortunately, the falcons kept losing their young by the wind blowing their eggs off the bridge, so a nesting box was built in 2010. Since then, the falcons have produced 24 chicks.

Other than providing shelter, taking care of the resident raptors has another perk for the bridge. Given that these are the fastest birds on Earth—capable of diving at prey at over 200 miles per hour—and they favor pigeons as their dish of choice, their presence means fewer pests and fewer droppings. Pigeon droppings are corrosive to bridge steel, noted Hansen.

Those interested in checking in on the falcons can do so here. The falcons are most often around between 5:30 and 8 a.m. and between 5 and 8 p.m., according to The Detroit Free Press.    

The International Bridge is a steel truss arch bridge with a suspended deck. The bridge features a single arch span on the Canadian side and a double arch span on the U.S. side.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Infrastructure

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