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Navy decides not to disturb peregrine falcons nesting on decommissioned aircraft carrier

| Friday, July 18, 2014, 9:21 p.m.
In  Aug. 7, 1998,, the USS Saratoga aircraft carrier is guided into Pier One of Coddington Cove in Middletown, R.I., by tugs after a five-day journey from the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
AP Photo/Matt York, File)
In Aug. 7, 1998,, the USS Saratoga aircraft carrier is guided into Pier One of Coddington Cove in Middletown, R.I., by tugs after a five-day journey from the Philadelphia Naval Yard. AP Photo/Matt York, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Navy is ready to say goodbye to the USS Saratoga, but a family of peregrine falcons is not.

The falcons are nesting on board the decommissioned aircraft carrier in Newport, R.I. The Navy has delayed the Saratoga's final trip to Texas, where it will be dismantled, until the fledglings are ready to leave.

“We wanted to do the right thing by these birds,” said Lisa Rama, spokeswoman for Naval Station Newport.

The naval station contacted the Fish and Wildlife Service when the nest was discovered in the spring. Their experts said the falcons should be done rearing their offspring by mid-August and recommended waiting until then to move the ship.

The peregrine falcon is a protected species under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Moving the ship while the falcons are nesting could violate the act.

While there was no set date to move the Saratoga this summer, it likely could have left by now, Rama said. The contract to scrap it was awarded in May to a Texas company, ESCO Marine.

The Saratoga is scheduled to depart in mid-to-late August.

For years, peregrine falcons and other birds have made their homes in Newport on the Saratoga and another decommissioned aircraft carrier, the ex-USS Forrestal, which left Rhode Island in 2010 to be scrapped. There are many ledges and out-of-the-way places on the behemoth ships for their nests, and high perches to scout out prey. Few people go aboard.

The family of falcons is under an elevator that used to take planes to the flight deck.

Peregrine falcons were once an endangered species, but the population rebounded when the pesticide DDT, which thinned the birds' eggshells, was banned in 1973, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

There are about 10 nesting pairs in Rhode Island, the state Department of Environmental Management said.

The Saratoga was launched in 1955 and decommissioned in 1994. A foundation was formed to relocate the ship to Quonset Point, R.I., so it could serve as a floating museum. The Navy took the Saratoga off the donation list when the USS John F. Kennedy carrier became available for a museum, and the foundation switched its preservation efforts.

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