Manchester’s Peregrine Falcon Eggs Expected to Hatch Around Mother’s Day

Posted on May 7, 2015

Watch the progress via NH Audubon’s live web cameras perched nestside atop the Brady-Sullivan Tower in Manchester

If Mother Nature follows her own schedule, the Peregrine Falcon eggs nestled atop the Brady-Sullivan Tower in Manchester should hatch on or around Mother’s Day, according to Chris Martin, senior biologist at New Hampshire Audubon. Birders can watch the process in real time thanks to the Single Digits live webcam inside the falcons’ skyscraper perch.

“The beauty of the camera is that it provides an insider’s view of something we would never get to see in the wild, Martin said. “But the big picture is the recovery of the Peregrine Falcon, the classification of which has been upgraded from endangered to threatened by NH Fish and Game.”

For now, the eggs are located in a corner of the nest with four visible; a fifth egg may be resting just out of the camera’s view. Four eggs comprise a full nest, or a “full clutch,” and the Manchester pair’s eggs should hatch after they complete a five-week incubation period that – according to Martin’s calculations – will commence on or around May 11.

“It’s an incredibly exciting process,” Martin said. “There’s no guarantee that any of the eggs will hatch, or any way to know how many will survive after they leave the nest.”

After the eggs hatch and the chicks begin to grow, develop and exercise, they’ll hop in and out of the camera’s view, and the team monitoring the camera will switch to a new view facing south over the city (the northern half of downtown Manchester will be visible) to focus on the nest’s ledge and perch pole. For the next six weeks or so, the young birds will wait for food to be delivered by the male and female parents as they gain strength and confidence in their ability to fly.

“And then comes the drama of fledging,” Martin said. “As soon as the chicks fly or fall from the nest edge and are out of view of the camera, we won’t know how they fared. This is the riskiest time for the birds and everyone will be wondering if they survived.”

The parents will keep track of the fledglings through vocalizations and continue to bring them food wherever they end up – baby birds are excellent at begging and yelling for food, Martin says. They may end up in the parking lot below the nest, across the street, or on a roof, and they sometimes fly back to the nest atop the tower in a day or two. The chicks will continue to have food delivered by their parents for up to a month after they initially leave the nest and grow strong enough to explore the nearby skies alone. They’ll then wander for most of the year until next spring when they may find a new place to breed.

The nest’s current inhabitants, a “nesting pair” of one male and one female falcon, are new to the skyscraper nest this year. For many years, NH Audubon watched the same two birds – identified by bands on their legs – return and raise dozens of hatchlings. Last spring, the male was injured in the middle of breeding season and was replaced almost immediately by a new, unbanded falcon. The female from last year failed to return this year.

“It usually doesn’t happen like this, but in the last 15 months, we went from two stable birds to two new occupants,” Martin said. “If I had to predict what happens, these two will probably own the site for the next decade.”

Neither of the new birds have ID bands, so NH Audubon biologists will attempt to band them – along with the new baby birds – when it’s safe to visit at the three-week-old mark. And while it is easy to be captivated by the new family, it’s important to remember that the birds are wild animals; not pets. They do not have names; Martin and his colleagues refer to them as the “Manchester male” and “Manchester female” for the time being. If they are banded, they’ll be known by their ID number.

“This is still wild nature here, and nothing we control,” Martin said. “They are living on their own, making their own living in a wild place, which just happens to be in an urban setting.”

Cities are great places for Peregrines because of the high concentration of prey – starlings, pigeons and relatively easy-to-catch birds – and most cities in the Northeast have at least one pair. Larger cities may have as many as a dozen depending on territory and food, but Manchester’s current pair “owns” most of the city and has been spotted as far away as Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Since 2001, all of the falcons from the Manchester perch have been banded in partnership with NH Fish and Game, which is responsible for wildlife management, so biologists have some insight about where they wind up. Young birds from Manchester have appeared throughout all of the New England states, flying as far as the Mid-Atlantic region and Virginia. Biologists keep track of the status through the Federal Bird Banding Lab, a website and system where people submit any sightings of banded birds, and the information is relayed back to NH Audubon.

“We rely on reports from the public and other biologists who can get a good view or a photo of a leg band,” Martin said. “In New Hampshire, many people work together as a team, which is the greatest aspect of this effort.”

While the Manchester nest site gets most of the publicity in New Hampshire because it is the only one in the state with a webcam, there are operating nest sites on cliffs, bridges, buildings, and remote areas across the Granite State. NH Audubon monitors them with help from volunteers, climbers and property managers who have been integral in the falcons population’s steady growth. There are 22 nesting pairs that Martin is aware of; 30 years ago, there were none.

A collaborative effort lasting over three decades, involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, NH Fish and Game, NH State Parks, and NH Audubon, has led to the recovery of Peregrines in New Hampshire. Since the early 1990s, conservation biologists from NH Audubon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and rock climbing volunteers have banded more than 300 Peregrine chicks, nearly 80% of all those hatched since 1981. Nearly 22% of New Hampshire’s banded Peregrines have been re-sighted, resulting in hard-to-obtain data on individual longevity and dispersal. Recent analysis of dozens of non-viable eggs recovered during banding attempts obtained have contributed significantly to our knowledge about levels of PDBEs and other toxins in the region’s Peregrine population.

To view the webcam, visit bit.ly/nhafalcon. To hear what a Peregrine Falcon call sounds like, (which may indicate that a fledgling or a parent falcon is nearby), visit allaboutbirds.org. To support NH Audubon’s Peregrine Falcon Monitoring and Management project or learn more about its history, click here…>

About New Hampshire Audubon
Founded in 1914, New Hampshire Audubon’s mission is to protect New Hampshire’s natural environment for wildlife and for people. It is an independent statewide membership organization with four nature centers throughout the state. Expert educators give programs to children, families, and adults at centers and in schools. Staff biologists and volunteers conduct bird conservation efforts such as the Peregrine Falcon restoration. New Hampshire Audubon protects thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and is a voice for sound public policy on environmental issues. For information on New Hampshire Audubon, including membership, volunteering, programs, sanctuaries, and publications, call 224-9909, or visit www.nhaudubon.org.