RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has been operating a local feed to watch the city’s Peregrine falcons since 2003. However, this year it got a huge upgrade.

8News reached out to the DWR and spoke with Watchable Wildlife Biologist Meagan Thomas to learn more about the Falcon Cam project, which returned earlier this month, and this endangered species.

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In the Falcon Cam’s early days it consisted of a continually updated series of still images. Since then, the DWR improved the camera to a live video feed. As of Spring 2022, that camera has been equipped with a microphone. Now you can listen along to the sounds of these wonderful birds, which Thomas described as part of “a charismatic species.”

Located on the 21st floor of the downtown Riverfront Plaza’s western tower, the Richmond falcon nest is home to one male, called “59/BM”, and one female, dubbed “95/AK” who laid the first of several eggs overnight on March 21. This same pair of falcons have nested together in the nest for 2 years now.

This avian couple is part of what Thomas calls a “conservation success story”. Although this species of falcon was taken off the federal endangered species list, it is still considered endangered by the state of Virginia. The two falcons here in Richmond are one of just 30 breeding pairs in the entire state.

Peregrine falcons have the fastest top speed of any animal in the world; going as fast as 200 miles per hour when hunting using a special technique called “stooping”.

Through the continued efforts of conservationists, such as those working with the DWR, they have been protected so that their population can slowly grow. Thomas says that, though still endangered, the eastern Peregrine falcon population has “rebounded” in recent years.

DWR biologists use the Falcon Cam, which is currently live for public viewing, for almost constant surveillance of the birds. You can follow along throughout the nesting season which usually runs from March through June.

With one egg already laying in the nest, Thomas expects two or three more over the course of the next week or so. Thomas says that the “clutch”, or group of eggs, are generally three to four in total and are laid every 48-72 hours. Once they have incubated and hatched, the chicks will stay in the nest (and on camera!) for the next few months.

When they are fully developed, but before they leave the nest, Thomas and her team will band the chicks’ legs. These bands are used to track and study the birds. Thomas’ department has used these bands in the past to locate Richmond-born falcons as far away as New Jersey.

Alongside the live stream, which is lit so that you can watch in any weather and through some of the night, the DWR operates a blog that keeps track of the goings-on in the nest. There they interpret the falcons’ different behaviors, such as courtship and bonding, to educate the public on what they are seeing.

Thomas hopes that this program will continue to grow and eventually be used in local classroom education.

You can watch along on the DWR Falcon Cam website and subscribe to get the latest updates on Richmond’s own endangered falcon family. You can also use their time-lapse feature to watch previous activity from the nest.

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