Peregrine falcon chicks hatch on San Francisco high-rise

UCSC Predatory Bird Research Group helped reintroduce species, keeps watch via web camera

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There are four peregrin falcon hatchlings (really) in this ball of fluff on the ledge of a San Francisco high-rise. (Photos from SCPBRG)
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The mother peregrin falcon known as "Diamond Lil" feeds her chicks Monday morning April 2. The four chicks -- "eyases" -- hatched between March 29 and March 31. 
Four fluffy, white peregrine falcon chicks have hatched in a nest on the San Francisco skyline where they can be viewed via a web cam hosted by UCSC's Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG).

The chicks, known as "eyases," began hatching Thursday, March 29 in a nesting box located on a ledge on the 33rd floor of PG&E's headquarters at 77 Beale St., said SCPBRG director Glenn Stewart. The fourth and final egg hatched Saturday, March 31.

The Predatory Bird Research Group, based at UCSC's Long Marine Lab, successfully reintroduced peregrine falcons to the wild after the species was nearly decimated 40 years ago from the effects of the pesticide DDT. The peregrine falcon was removed from the U.S. Endangered Species list on August 25, 1999.

Stewart said PG&E has partnered with SCPBRG for decades, including helping UCSC host the cameras that run live and continuously throughout the year.

The mother, known as "Diamond Lil," has begun to feed the young small bits of food. Web watchers can see the periodic feeding between stretches of the mom sitting on the chicks, keeping them warm.

When the eyases are two to three weeks old, Stewart will go to the nest site to place identification bands on their legs. UC biologists are interested in the dispersal of falcon fledglings from natal areas to eventual nesting territories, the longevity of individuals, and tenacity of pairs at the nest site, he said.

The PG&E peregrine falcons have been a San Francisco financial district institution since the first falcon nest camera images appeared online. The falcons achieved a following from around the world including more than 300 schools and early on attracted more than one half million hits per week on the SCPBRG website. 

"PG&E has been a terrific host to the birds since we established the first nest camera in 2005," Stewart said. In addition, PG&E helps underwrite the conservation education assemblies that SCPBRG puts on for schools throughout Central and Northern California.

Stewart said many volunteers in the falcon recovery project began as interested viewers. Some of the volunteers control the camera remotely, zooming in for a close-up or panning to show the San Francisco skyline when Lil leaves the nest to hunt.

The young birds will be able to fly and fledge after 41 to 44 days when their flight feathers are grown in, Stewart said.