If you tune into UCSC’s Peregrine Nest Cam while the youngsters are stumbling over themselves, it might be tough to connect these awkward chicks to their agile parents — who happen to be the fastest birds in the skies. Peregrine Falcons are also the speediest creatures on the planet. Their stoop (diving) speeds can exceed 200mph, eclipsing the 70mph of the cheetah, the quickest land animal.
Peregrines were at one time endangered, a decline blamed largely on the effects of DDT. Studies showed that DDT and its metabolite, DDE, caused eggshell thinning in susceptible raptor species such as the Bald Eagle, as well as among Brown Pelicans. The banning of DDT in the U.S. is credited with the recovery of Peregrines. (Even still, the DDT ban is maligned by critics who see DDT as the most effective agent in fighting malaria and who believed the deleterious effects were overstated.)
Peregrines eventually recovered to the point where they were taken off the endangered list in 1999. And they’ve been spotted at San Francisco’s PG&E building since 1987.
The Nest Cam at the Financial District structure was turned on in 2005, but the nest box at this perch predates the camera by almost 20 years. Right now, the image shows three babies (eyasses*) with the occasional daytime appearance of a parent bearing food. Note to pigeon appreciators (including myself): pigeons are a staple of the urban Peregrine’s dinner plate.
Although the experience of watching the Nest Cam is a passive one, seeing the chicks huddled together alone in the long absences of their parent does illuminate the inherent vulnerability of nesting season — for every species. I’m often in awe that any young in the wild survive, given the natural and unnatural hazards. Every bird parent could use a Nest Cam monitor.
If you can’t catch the Nest Cam live, there are some You Tube captures of the Peregrines in nest. You can also see photos and visual logs of the young San Francisco Peregrines in local photographer Glenn Nevill’s Raptor Galleries. And learn more about the Peregrine Falcon research at the website of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group Project (SCPBRG).