Move over, eagles; it’s the peregrines’ turn for the spotlight.
There is action on the FalconCam, a camera streaming live video from a peregrine nesting box near the top of the Bremer Tower in downtown St. Paul. Like the EagleCam that has allowed viewers to follow the lives of two eaglets and their parents this spring in the metro area, the camera is the work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Two baby falcons hatched May 18 in the peregrine nest. The fuzzy pair is often under the watchful eye of its mother, named Jill, said Lori Naumann, information officer for the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program.
Jill is well-known to FalconCam watchers. She has been at the nesting box for several years and is identified by banding on her leg. Her mate is new this year to the nest, Naumann said. It’s not unusual for falcons to return again and again to the same nest, she added, although falcons typically square off with others of their kind for control of a nest. Jill is missing part of her beak, likely a consequence of just such a power struggle.
“It’s very common with falcons. They are really far more attached to the territory than they are the other bird,” Naumann said about Jill’s continued presence. “They will mate for many, many years as long as both of them are strong enough to defend that territory against members of the same sex.”
The DNR installed a new, better camera with a fish-eye lens last week, Naumann said.
A third egg in the nest has not hatched. “I don’t think the third egg is going to hatch, and that is pretty common,” Naumann said. “They lay four to five eggs, and two is about average.”
Led by The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota and supported by the DNR and others, nesting boxes were produced in the 1980s to help restore a falcon population that was decimated from exposure to the pesticide DDT. (Its agricultural use was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1972.) DDT had a thinning effect on eggshells. In fact, Minnesota’s peregrine population was zero in 1982, according to the DNR.
The St. Paul nesting box was first placed on the east side of Bremer Tower in 1987 and first used by a pair of falcons in 1988. The first video camera was installed in 2012.
Currently, Jill can be seen staying close to the nest most often, Naumann said, but both she and the male hunt. Their diet is strictly other birds. One particular nest in recent years was “very colorful,” Naumann said. Many songbirds fell prey.
The eagles’ nest in Minneapolis remains active — and watched — as well. Both young eagles have fledged — taken their maiden flights. Some Facebook followers have posted video snippets on the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program page.
Currently, it’s quiet at the nest, but the young eagles occasionally return, Naumann said. “I think they do come back and visit from time to time … and they may even use it as a dining area, come back and eat there once in a while. For the most part, it will just be the parents that will come back in the fall and move sticks around again.”