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Another Peregrine Spring

For nearly a decade, a Peregrine Falcon pair have nested on the 18th floor of the Nebraska State Capitol in downtown Lincoln. Also during that time, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, in partnership with the Office of the Capitol Commission, has provided an intimate view of the nestbox via the internet. During the early years, the image quality would be considered poor by today’s standards. A distant camera provided fuzzy still shots every five seconds. Three years ago, equipment was overhauled and the continuous high-definition video now streams in live online from two cameras, including one looking directly into the nestbox. The on-demand streaming video provides a spectacular view into the falcons’ domestic lives.

Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Peregrine Falcons were once an endangered species, but they are not a native Nebraska breeding bird. In the mid- to late 20th century, the Peregrine Falcon started nesting on tall buildings in cities because these structures resemble the species’ natural breeding habitat—tall steep cliffs. Conservation workers soon realized this adaptation provided additional opportunities to recover the species. Efforts to introduce Peregrine Falcons into cities through a process called “hacking” soon followed. The Woodmen Tower in Omaha was a site of a hacking effort in the 1980s. It remains the only other site in the state where this species nests. The Capitol’s Peregrine Falcons were not hacked but rather showed up on their own.

Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Though a nestbox was placed on the 18th floor in the 1990s and birds were seen off and on at various times, it was not until 2005 that a pair bred successfully. For the past nine years, the same pair has reigned over the Capitol dome. The pair includes the female named Ally who has the band combination A/*Y and is from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The unnamed male has the band combination 19/K and hails from Des Moines, Iowa. This pair has successfully bred every year since 2005 except for one year. In 2008, the birds had eggs, but they were lost. Overall, this is an excellent track record and the pair of birds is getting up there in years.

Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

On March 31st of this year, the pair started the nesting journey once again by welcoming their first egg. As every other day since another has followed, the clutch currently stands at four eggs. Unless this is it, there could be another one or possibly two eggs to come. In about 33 days, the eggs should begin hatching and then it will be about seven weeks of raising youngsters. This is an entertaining period, as the young birds begin as mere fluffballs and grow quickly to become full-grown falcons.

Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The male falcon has the responsibility of finding enough food (mostly birds) to meet the demands of his growing family. Even though the birds are cute and the video is interesting, the stakes are high. If the male is unable to find the resources or if there is a severe storm or some other calamity, the story may not follow the script that we all would like to follow. These birds can and do suffer and even possibly die. However, the better you understand what is on the line, the deeper appreciation you have for these bird’s survival and for what can be seen. Click here to watch live.

Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Joel Jorgensen/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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