Bird and wildlife lovers were heartbroken when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources EagleCam nest fell in an early April storm, but there’s still a way for people to get their fix of minute-by-minute bird life. The agency’s FalconCam is still up and running.
Perched on the 26th floor of the Town Square Tower in downtown St. Paul, the FalconCam has provided a view of peregrine falcons nesting and chicks hatching for 11 years. This year’s feed features a female peregrine falcon and occasional appearances from a partner, incubating four eggs.
The female, named Arcadia, was banded in 2013 at a nesting box at the state prison in St. Cloud. DNR staff haven’t yet been able to tell if the male is banded. The DNR reports on their website that the pair were first observed around the live feed nest around the end of December 2022, and the first eggs appeared at the beginning of April.
While the falcons haven’t been as popular as the eagles — the EagleCam had 190,000 users visits this year compared to the FalconCam’s 8,260 — interest in them has taken off in the weeks since the eagle nest fell.
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In a typical season, falcons will lay three or four eggs, taking about two to three days for each egg to lay the next. The eggs can take about 30 days to incubate and hatch, and the young will take another six weeks to mature so they can fly off. The watching window closes quickly after that.
“The birds only stay in the nest until June or early July. There’s a much shorter period of time that they’re actually in the box.” said Lori Naumann, an information officer with the DNR’s non-game wildlife program. Peregrine falcons are willing to stay in place longer if they find ideal nesting locations, she noted.
The wood box shelter was placed on the Town Square Tower in the 1980s as part of an effort to help predator birds recover after their numbers were decimated by the insecticide DDT, which left eggs fragile.
“What would happen with these larger birds, they would sit on the eggs and the eggshells were so thin that they would break” Naumann said. “And that caused near extinction in many species: peregrine falcons, swans, bald eagles, many larger birds.”
Partnerships with the nongame wildlife program and nonprofit organizations including the Bell Museum, the Midwest Peregrine Society and the Minnesota Falconer’s Association set up boxes around the state to help reestablish the population.
“These boxes were placed in a number of areas around Minnesota,” Naumann said. “And then [the building managers] were interested in putting a camera in, so we worked with them and a camera company, and it was the first live camera that we had.”
No specific plans are currently in place, but Naumann said she hopes in the future the DNR live camera can upgrade its feed to include higher picture quality and multiple angles. The agency says it also intends to reestablish an EagleCam.