IDFG

Peregrine Falcons are managed as protected species by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game

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Nest updates

April 23

Can you tell the male and female apart? It can be tricky unless the birds are standing side by side – in that case, the female will be noticeably larger than the male. This characteristic, which is common to most birds of prey, is called “reverse sexual size dimorphism.”

When the female is incubating, the male is fulfilling his role as protector and provider. To humans, the notion of sitting still for long periods of time during incubation seems intolerable, but for birds of prey of both sexes it is normal behavior. They spend most of their time sitting still, conserving energy until it is time to hunt for food, defend their territory, court, or raise their young. You may catch the falcons napping once in a while, but they are alert during incubation.


April 15

From time to time, the birds stand up and rotate the eggs. This is an important chore, as it ensures that the eggs are uniformly warmed and prevents the embryos from sticking to their shell, which could be a problem during hatching.

An egg is an amazing creation. It is fragile enough for a tiny chick to peck its way out, yet strong enough to withstand the weight of an incubating adult. That wasn’t always true. In the 1960s, scientists discovered that the pesticide DDT caused physiological problems in female Peregrine Falcons, resulting in thin-shelled eggs that broke during incubation.

DDT was banned in 1972 and The Peregrine Fund helped recover this once-endangered species with captive breeding and releases to the wild. It was one of the most successful conservation efforts in history.


April 8

With the arrival of egg #4 on April 2, incubation is in full swing. The incubation period is 33-35 days. With a body temperature of 104 degrees F, the adults are able to keep the eggs warm even in cold spring weather. During incubation, a “brood patch” develops on the chests of the adults. This bare spot keeps the eggs in close contact with the parents’ bodies for maximum heat.

The patch remains for up to two weeks after the eggs hatch because new chicks are unable to regulate their own body temperatures for that long and continue to depend on their parents for warmth. The brood patch fades and feathers fill back in as the youngsters grow older.


April 1

No fooling, there are now three eggs in the nest. Will there be a fourth, or even a fifth? Typically, the falcons do not begin incubating until the third or fourth egg arrives so that all the eggs hatch about the same time. Otherwise, the bigger, first-hatched chick would have an unfair advantage at feeding time over the smaller, last-hatched chick. You will see both adults sitting on the eggs at times over the next few days but incubation does not begin in earnest until the laying period ends.

The eggs are capable of withstanding temperatures below freezing. The chicks do not develop much inside the egg until incubation begins. Occasionally, the eggs will appear to be left alone for short periods but, even when the adults are out of camera range, you can rest assured that at least one is always nearby to protect the nest.


March 26

Welcome to the 2014 FalconCam season! This is the sixth year a webcam has provided you with a front-row seat for watching the daily activities at a nest box in downtown Boise.

We are launching the season with big news – the female Peregrine Falcon laid her first egg today! This is the earliest date for a first egg since the webcam was installed in 2009. The timing is almost two weeks earlier than last year, which also was earlier than ever. Wild birds keep their own schedules.

We appreciate your patience as we continue working on this page. The video can take up to a minute to load and the audio is not yet available. You may notice various refinements in the days ahead.


March 19

We know many of you are anxiously waiting for this year's FalconCam and we want to let you know that it's coming soon! Birds have been observed around the nest box in downtown Boise recently. We are now waiting for Fiberpipe, which generously donates the video portion of this project, to finish the technical side of things before launching the 2014 season.

The photo of the falcons at the nest was taken by Bob Young on March 12.

Peregrine Falcon recovery history

A slide toward extinction

Dented, thin-shelled Peregrine eggs, a result of DDT contamination in the parents' food.

When The Peregrine Fund was founded in 1970, Peregrine Falcons were in danger of extinction in North America and Europe. The falcons had disappeared from the eastern half of the United States and were in serious decline west of the Mississippi River.

At the first Peregrine Conference in 1965, biologists concluded that the unprecedented population crash coincided with the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides. Many experts and falconers believed that breeding the birds in captivity would keep the species alive should the wild population become extinct. At a second meeting in 1969, participants asked the United States, Canada, and Mexico to protect Peregrine Falcons. In 1970, the U.S. Department of Interior listed the Peregrine as endangered. The use of DDT was banned in 1972. The Peregrine Falcon remained in the endangered category when Congress approved the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Peregrine Palace

The first captive breeding facility was built at Cornell University, where Dr. Tom Cade had recently joined the faculty. In 1970, a 40-chamber barn, dubbed “Peregrine Palace,” near Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology became the home of the recovery effort. The same year, two schoolboys sent money to Tom to save the falcon from extinction. He deposited in a fund for that purpose, and The Peregrine Fund was born.

The first fostered Peregrine chicks were raised by wild parents in Colorado's Royal Gorge in 1974. (The temporary coloring on their heads was used for identification.)

The captive breeding effort began with birds from the wild and donated by falconers. The first breeding season occurred in the spring of 1971.

That first season wasn’t easy. Only a few birds of prey had ever been bred successfully in captivity at the time and useful information was limited. But a few early cases proved that it could be done. Over the years, Tom and his crew persevered, pioneering innovative techniques to produce viable eggs, healthy chicks, and fledglings capable of surviving in the wild.

In 1974, four of the 23 Peregrine Falcons produced that year were released to the wild to see what would work best on a large scale: hacking, fostering, cross-fostering, and released adult mated pairs. Two chicks were placed in the nest of an adult pair that had lost their eggs earlier in the season. The foster parents successfully raised them to fledging. The other two were released using the hacking method using a box, platform, or other structure and supplemental feeding until independence.

One of many western hack sites; this one was carried to the cliffside by helicopter.

Hack sites proved to be a highly effective way to release young birds. Biologists scaled rugged mountains and rappelled down steep cliffs to install hack boxes where juvenile falcons would have a good chance to survive. Hack-site attendants braved howling winds, snow and cold, bears, insects, and rattlesnakes to feed and monitor the young birds until they dispersed. From 1974 to 1997, nearly 4,000 captive-bred falcons were released to the wild throughout the United States.

Success!

Always a rare bird even in the best of times, the Peregrine Falcon now is found throughout nearly all of its historical range in North America, as well as in areas where it never was before. To the delight of urban dwellers, the falcons have adapted to tall buildings reminiscent of their natural cliff habitat. Building ledges and artificial nest boxes provide places to rear their young and pigeons and city birds like pigeons are an excellent food source.

In 1999, the people who had participated in what became one of the most successful recovery efforts in history gathered for a celebration at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. The occasion: official removal of the Peregrine Falcon from the U.S. Endangered Species List.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, presented a gift to Peregrine Fund President Bill Burnham in honor of the proposed delisting of Peregrine Falcons in 1999.

Public support has been vital to the falcon’s recovery from the beginning. Rachel Carson’s landmark book, “Silent Spring,” captured the public’s attention about an alarming loss of wildlife. As people learned more about the plight of the Peregrine Falcon in articles, media reports, books, and films, they responded with money and support. Through the years, thousands of individuals and many falconry clubs, conservation groups, federal and state agencies, and private businesses and landowners became partners in the project.

As it did with DDT, the Peregrine Falcon continues to be an excellent indicator warning of contaminants in the environment, such as possible effects of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Research on this tenacious bird now spans a half-century, providing a wealth of data that can be used to ensure the health and safety of many species, including humans.

Peregrine Falcon facts

Nest:

Falcons do not build nests. Eggs are laid and incubated in a “scrape,” which the falcons build by pushing the gravel out behind them with their legs.

Courtship:

The birds “bow” to each other by leaning forward with their heads low and their tails held high. They make an “ee-chupping” sound. Both the male and female bow and vocalize over the scrape and may touch bills. The male offers food to the female, which takes it from his talons or beak, often accompanied by ee-chups or loud vocalizations.

Pairs:

Peregrine Falcons generally keep the same mate from year to year, but if one dies, the surviving bird will seek another.

Eggs:

A typical clutch is three to four eggs, which are incubated for 32 to 35 days. The parents will use their beaks to roll and shift the eggs periodically during incubation. The male assists by sitting on the eggs while the female leaves to eat. The eggs will not hatch if they are infertile or the young dies during incubation.

Chicks:

Called an eyas, a chick stays warm under its parent during the brooding period. Chicks are fed by both parents, who make sure each chick receives enough to eat. They are in the nest for six to seven weeks.

Fledging:

Chicks prepare to leave the nest by flapping their wings in the nest, then taking short test flights. For about six weeks, they continue to be fed by their parents while honing their flying and hunting skills before striking out on their own.

Learn more about Peregrine Falcons in our Explore Raptors feature!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are the nest and webcam located?

The camera is attached to a nest box on the 14th floor of the One Capital Center Building, 10th and Main streets, in downtown Boise. The box is on a ledge on the northwest corner of the building. The webcam may be viewed on a television monitor in the lobby.

What happened at this nest last year?

Here are some significant dates from previous years:

Event 2009 2010 2011 2012
Camera started March March 10 March 22 March 21
First egg laid April 10 April 16 April 7 ? (out of sight)
Last egg laid April 17 April 23 April 14 April 30
Hatching began May 17 May 25 May 16 June 4
Last hatch May 18 May 26 May 17 June 4
First fledge June 25 July 1 June 24 July 13
Camera turned off August August August August 24

Are these birds endangered?

The Peregrine Falcon was removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1999. The Peregrine Fund was established in 1970 to recover the species by producing young birds in captivity and releasing them to the wild. The population of the species continues to be monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and individual states.

How did the falcons become endangered?

The population had been decimated by DDT, a pesticide that thinned the eggshells of many types of birds of prey, including the Bald Eagle. The use of DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.

How are they doing in Idaho?

In 2009, The Idaho Department of Fish and Game removed the Peregrine Falcon from the state endangered species list on the 10th anniversary of the federal delisting. Like all birds of prey, the Peregrine Falcon remains fully protected by state and federal law.

When did recovery begin in the state?

Peregrine Falcons were essentially gone from Idaho by 1974. Starting in 1982, captive-bred falcons were released to the wild in Idaho and nearby states. In 1995, the raptors were again documented as a breeding species and releases were discontinued. Eight falcons were released in downtown Boise in 1988 and 1989. Today, there are about two dozen breeding pairs scattered around the state.

Weather at the nest

Peregrine Falcon research and literature

Can't see the video?

For this season, the video should work on both desktop and mobile systems, regardless of operating system or browser. If you have difficulty viewing the video, please contact streaming@fiberpipe.net.

perpetuate

Two young boys first put the “fund” in The Peregrine Fund by sending money to founder Tom Cade in 1970. You can continue their legacy — donate today to conserve birds of prey around the world.

peregrine gifts