Watch four Peregrine falcon chicks in a nest on Alcatraz Island

It’s baby Peregrine falcon season on a California island best known for its swift currents, cold water, and notorious prisoners. A new live webcam allows viewers to watch four recently hatched peregrine falcon chicks on Alcatraz Island. The camera was set up by the National Park Service (NPS) and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. The fixed-angle webcam provides high-definition images even at night. The livestream is also equipped with a 12-hour cache so that visitors can catch-up on allowing viewers to catch up.

Birds photo

The nest is the handiwork of a female falcon named Larry, short for Lawrencium. Larry hatched on the University of California, Berkeley’s bell tower in 2018. To track Larry’s progress in the wild, biologists placed a band on her leg when she was a chick. By 2020, Larry and her unnamed male partner were spotted breeding on Alcatraz Island. They were tucked away with their young in a natural cave called an eyrie on the western side of the island. According to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, this was the first time that Peregrines had ever been recorded nesting on Alcatraz. The duo welcomed four chicks in April 2023, matching their four for this year. 

Biologists say that the goal of the livestream is to “share this incredible view of a wild peregrine falcon nest with the world.”

“I hope this livestream generates appreciation for Peregrine falcons and sparks viewers’ interest in the other bird life found on Alcatraz as well,” Alcatraz Island biologist Lidia D’Amico said in a statement.

[Related: Thriving baby California condor is a ray of hope for the unique species.]

While best known for its now-closed prison, Alcatraz Island has been a sanctuary for birds for years.  It’s home to loud Western Gulls, large Black-crowned Night-Herons, speedy Anna’s Hummingbirds, and more. According to the NPS, Peregrine falcons like Larry are the apex predators of the island who can be seen preying on other avians, including songbirds, shorebirds, ducks. This behavior is an important reminder that the falcons are wild animals. Parts of the popular island are closed from the months of February to September to allow for nesting and protecting the birds.

Peregrine falcons are the largest falcons in North America, with an impressive 39 to 43-inch wingspan. They are known for their spectacular dives called stoops. Urban-dwelling Peregrines fly high above their intended prey–usually pigeons–before they stoop and strike the bird in mid-air. This sharp blow is fatal and scientists estimate diving Peregrine falcons can reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour.  

[Related: Sadly, these live-streamed bald eagle eggs likely won’t hatch.]

Despite being such fearsome predators, their populations nationwide were once driven to the brink of extinction. They were federally listed as endangered in 1973. Organic pollutants, particularly the synthetic insecticide DDT, severely thinned their egg shells. DDT was banned in 1972 and Peregrine falcons were officially removed from the endangered species list in 1999.

“This impressive bird has long been noted for its speed, grace, and aerial skills,” the National Park Service says. “Now, it is also a symbol of America’s recovering threatened and endangered species.”

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