MGE Names Falcon Chicks After Key Researchers, One With UW-Madison Ties

Madison, Wis., June 4, 2014—Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) named the four peregrine falcon chicks that hatched in a nesting box on top of its Blount Generating Station. The three-week-old chicks were named while they were banded with identification numbers by peregrine expert Greg Septon.

MGE dedicates its 2014 falcon nesting season to the late Joseph Hickey, 1907-1993. Hickey was an acclaimed ornithologist, researcher and UW professor who loved all birds—especially peregrine falcons.

Hickey contributed to the 1960s research linking the pesticide DDT to declining bird populations. DDT caused thinning eggshells which reduced reproductive success. The peregrine falcon was near extinction when the United States banned DDT in 1972.

Without the pioneering research by Hickey and his contemporaries, we may not have peregrine falcons nesting in Madison today. Through concerted restoration efforts, we have seen a resurgence of falcons. Though no longer endangered nationally, they remain on Wisconsin's endangered species list.

MGE's 2014 falcons have the names of some the leading researchers and conservationists that championed the cause of banning DDT:

Joe Hickey studied under Aldo Leopold at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1940s. In 1948, he replaced Leopold as the head of the UW's Wildlife Management Department after Leopold's sudden death. It was then that Hickey helped complete Leopold's then unfinished book "A Sand County Almanac," culminating in the 1949 posthumous publication of Leopold's famous work.

Hickey's work concerning the use of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, such as DDT, was key in the banning of these pesticides. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 2002.

Lorrie Otto was a Milwaukee conservationist. When she noticed that robins were dying in her neighborhood after DDT had been sprayed on elm trees, she contacted Joe Hickey. The two (an activist and a scientist) joined forces and became key leaders of the effort to ban DDT in Wisconsin.

Lucille Stickel was one of the early pioneers in wildlife toxicology. She published her first contaminant paper (on DDT) in 1946. The early work by Lucille and her colleagues helped form much of the basis of Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring. A close associate of Joe Hickey, she directed the laboratory proof that DDT was the chemical that caused eggshell thinning in birds.

Rosalie Edge and Joe Hickey were fellow New York City birders. She was one of the first women to become a national leader in bird conservation. She later became an early and prominent voice in exposing the dangers of DDT for birds. She also championed the protection of wilderness areas.

The falcons that have nested at MGE have hatched four eggs every year since 2010. They hatched three eggs in 2009 when falcons began using the nesting box that MGE installed a decade earlier. Statewide last year, a known total of 98 falcon chicks hatched at 32 successful nest sites.

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About MGE

MGE generates and distributes electricity to 141,000 customers in Dane County, Wis., and purchases and distributes natural gas to 147,000 customers in seven south-central and western Wisconsin counties. MGE's parent company is MGE Energy, Inc. (Nasdaq: MGEE). The company's roots in the Madison area date back more than 150 years.