Minnesota DNR FalconCam welcomes 2 new chicks

The inside of a box used as a falcon nest.
A peregrine falcon parent feeds two falcon chicks on Monday. They won't be this small for much longer.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Two of the four eggs featured the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ FalconCam have hatched.

The live-camera feed, on the 26th floor of the Town Square Tower in downtown St. Paul, shows the two chicks hatched sometime on Friday. Lori Naumann, an information officer with the DNR’s non-game wildlife program, said the chicks will start to grow quickly.

“They will double their weight in about a week, and it increases by tenfold in three weeks,” Naumann said. “Just like with eagles, they are a raptor species, so they eat nothing but meat, and it is 90 percent birds. And they will be feeding them pretty constantly. That’s why they grow so quickly.”

The chances that the remaining two eggs will hatch as well are slim, Naumann said, as peregrine falcons tend to wait until they lay all their eggs to start incubating. That helps the young stay at relatively the same size as they age.

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“Delayed incubation helps the parents so that they’re the same size and there’s no competition,” she said, comparing them to bald eagles or other species where bigger siblings can sometimes push out or attack smaller chicks to increase their changes of survival.

Perigrine falcon chicks huddle together.
A group of falcon chicks from 2010.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The fuzzy chicks will start to lose their downy white feathers around 21 to 35 days after hatching, when they reach what Naumann referred to as their “teenager-looking awkward stage.”

That’s also around the same time scientists will band the birds to help track the peregrine falcon’s age and identification. Banding can also help with researching migration and flight patterns. And, if a falcon dies, it provides wildlife experts with baseline information to look into a cause.

By 35 to 45 days, the falcons’ fully developed wing and body feathers will be ready. That’s when they’ll try to take flight, likely leaving the nest for good.

If that first flight isn’t successful, the young birds could be rescued, taken to a facility like the Minnesota Raptor Center, and rereleased at the nest to try again.

“If we get involved, we generally rerelease the bird back at the same box. Because the parents know, you know. And they’re still looking for that chick,” Naumann said. “So they will know that’s their chick and will continue to hang around and feed it if necessary.”

As for the unhatched eggs, Naumann said wildlife experts with the Midwest Peregrine Society will help clean the box once the birds leave the nest for the season. In the wild, it’s natural for the birds to move unhatched eggs to the edge of the nest, where they’re either eaten by predators or fall out to the ground.