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2008 Peregrine Nestbox News


Nestbox News is an account of activity at a nestbox placed atop Mack-Cali Realty Corporation's 101 Hudson St., Jersey City, by biologists in the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. Follow this chronicle of the nesting behavior and activity of peregrine falcons and their chicks.

October 10, 2008
Jersey City observer Kay Gunn continues to watch for the peregrines in the vicinity of her location near 101 Hudson Street. She contacted us with the following report:

"Yesterday afternoon (October 8) I saw one of the peregrines perched on 101 Hudson while the other was flying between 101 Hudson & Exchange Center. They both went in pursuit of another peregrine that was just to the west of 101 Hudson. Both of the locals attacked, and for a few seconds there was a pretty fierce fight between the three. Then they started moving north. In the pictures, the third was just outside of the frame, following from behind. I lost them when they went over the top of the Pizzeria Uno & parking deck on Columbus Drive.

"I only saw 1 return - it flew around the top of 101 Hudson for a minute or so, and then went over and perched on Goldman Sachs." (Kay saw 2 adults at 101 the next morning.)

Biologist Kathy Clark speculates that the intruder was female and it was likely an unintentional entry into the territory. The photos appear to show the local bird being aggressive (legs down and eyes following the intruder), while the other bird seemed to be taking evasive action. Hopefully no serious harm was done.

To view a slide show of the encounter please visit Kay's Picasa site at: http://picasaweb.google.com/kaygunn/Oct8PeregrineFight#slideshow.

August 1, 2008
The two adults and juvenile peregrine continue to be spotted in the vicinity of the nestbox. Falcon watcher and photographer Kay Gunn has provided us with photos of the peregrines as this year's young bird continues to develop.

July 21, 2008
The webcam was shut down late last week as a cost-saving measure. At this time the birds would very rarely be on camera as they go about their business of catching prey and the female young-of-the-year continues to hone her hunting skills. Any events of significance will be posted here.

We anticipate reactivating the camera next April. Until then, the staff and volunteers involved with the peregrine falcons and webcam thank the public for their support.

July 11, 2008
Juvenile falcon on rooftop with prey After a nesting season full of ups and downs for the peregrines atop 101 Hudson St., it appears the lone surviving chick is doing well. Peregrine watcher Marc Simon photographed the young falcon feeding on the roof of 150 Bay Street on Monday morning at approximately 7:00 a.m.

Click on the image for a enlarger view.

July 3, 2008 (by dedicated falcon watcher Kay Gunn)
The July 4th holiday weekend is upon us, and as all my human neighbors are preparing for the big holiday, I am reflecting on the year my beautiful peregrine neighbors at 101 Hudson have had.

I was introduced to one of the adults on a warm sunny day in February. As I was waiting to cross the street at the post office, a large bird dived just in front of me over Montgomery Street, flying so fast that I could barely see it. A car went thru the intersection just then, and a pigeon fell from the air as the larger bird jumped into a tree. I walked over in wonder and stared at the beautiful bird, seeing it's large talons and bands, and immediately recognized it as a peregrine falcon. What fantastic nature and wildlife we have, right here in Jersey city!

Thus started my fascination with and devotion to these birds. I discovered the wonderful webcam and Nestbox News, and from the day the camera went live I watched in amazement, learning more about these beautiful birds each day. We all watched together as the adults brooded, as the eggs hatched, as the parents fed the cute young eyasses.

We also watched during that horrible early May weekend when first one eyass was temporarily removed from the nestbox, and then 2 of the 3 remaining died. But life must go on, and it did for the remaining 2 young girls. It was delightful watching them grow. When they discovered the ramp and started to leave the nestbox, it was a little hard for we webcam watchers because they were out of our view, but we knew it meant they were growing up.

It's been 3 weeks now since the 2 girls took their first flight. I did not see them fledge, but was there watching that morning. One young girl was clearly visible on a rooftop, and both parents were nearby watching. I've visited her almost every day since then, always hoping by some miracle I would see her sister.

Unfortunately, we know her sister did not make it, but the remaining fledgling has thrived. I’ve watched as the dedicated parents have diligently been guiding her in flight and teaching her hunting skills. Just a few days ago, I saw the fledgling and male having a meal as the mom looked on (see links below). The fledgling is beautiful and strong. So strong, in fact, that I don’t think we will see her much longer around 101 Hudson. That is a sign of success for this girl. Let’s all hope that we hear of her raising her own chicks in a few years.

Photos by Kay Gunn:
fledgling on rooftop
fledgling with prey
fledgling with prey, adult perched
adult feeding
adult, feathers flying
adult stretching wings

June 27, 2008 (by Principal Biologist Mick Valent)
Regretful news...the fledgling that was released from atop 101 Hudson St. yesterday afternoon was found dead on the street below. One of the engineers found the bird as he left the building last evening. The bird has not yet been recovered from the site by Division staff so no cause of death has been determined.

Yesterday’s release seemed to go off without a hitch. Just moments prior to the release, both adult birds had appeared on the rooftop near the nest box. A good sign, I thought, to have the adults nearby as the fledgling was being released.

As the side of the transport box slid open the fledgling cautiously hopped out onto the roof and stood momentarily before taking flight. She flew upwards above the building and for several moments hung stationary in the wind currents. Then in an instant she banked left and disappeared around the west end of the building and out of sight. Seconds later she appeared on the east side as she circled the building. Her flight appeared strong, another good sign, I thought. Within seconds one of the adults appeared - then the other. Then all three disappeared from view but the calls of the fledgling and adults remained loud suggesting they had landed on the east end of the roof and out of sight. Within seconds the adult female appeared and demonstrated her displeasure with my presence - as she always does. Once back inside I felt optimistic about the bird’s chances for survival.

One of the unique problems of urban nests is that when fledglings end up on the ground, as they do at non-urban sites as well, the adults are reluctant to approach them on the busy city streets. When this occurs there is always a decision to be made. Should the bird be immediately placed back near the nest or taken to a rehabilitation facility to determine if the bird has been injured?

These decisions always result in tradeoffs. On the one hand, if the bird is injured and nursed back to health it has a much better chance of surviving. On the other hand, any time a young bird is removed from the parents they miss out on invaluable learning experiences that can only be gained from being with the adults. Was this bird away from the adults too long? Would it have learned, at a slower pace, about flying amid the buildings with their expanses of glass? Did this inexperience contribute to its demise? We’ll never know for certain. If we are able to determine the cause of death through a post-mortem examination we will post it here.

June 26, 2008
The fledgling is be returned to Jersey City today. More information will be posted when available.

June 17, 2008
The preliminary word that the fledgling at The Raptor Trust had a hairline wing fracture was incorrect. It now appears there is nothing wrong with the bird.

Young falcons are typically not strong fliers when they first fledge. This bird probably just lacked sufficient strength for sustained flight. Staff at the Raptor Trust will hold her and exercise her in their flight cage until she appears strong enough for release.

We will update this page as soon as we have more information.

June 13, 2008
The report from The Raptor Trust on the fledgling found on Montgomery St. is that there is no apparent injury or health problem at this time. The bird will be moved into a flight cage and observed, and if all is well will be returned to Jersey City on Monday.

June 12, 2008
Earlier today we received reports from dedicated viewers and a worker in a nearby building that both chicks had fledged. However, only one of the birds could be located on nearby rooftops and ledges.

By mid-afternoon we determined why only one bird was observed - a Jersey City Animal Control officer retrieved one of the fledglings at the Montgomery St. parking garage and it was transported to The Raptor Trust. Whereas a difficult early flight resulting in a stunned bird on the ground could be fatal for a truly wild bird, these urban birds have many people looking out for them. We are waiting for a health check from The Raptor Trust, and assuming the bird is not seriously injured, we hope to return it to the Jersey City rooftop on Monday.

June 9, 2008
The two nestlings have grown fast and are on the verge of becoming "fledglings." Both could be seen over the past weekend, using the nest box to roost at night. But it seems most of their time is off-camera, out and about on the roof. It is possible that one has already taken its first flight, most likely a short flight down, over the ledge, to another rooftop just one floor down; that's an area the adults frequent as well. This morning, one juvenile was perched on the ledge, in camera range, along with an adult perched on the parapet wall above the nest box.

At almost six weeks of age, their flight feathers are nearly fully grown out. It will take a little more time for those feathers to "harden," or mature, to carry the birds' weight and force of flight. But they are capable of short flights and their skills will develop quickly. They are still very dependent on their parents for food for the next month, until they start to learn how to hunt.

June 2, 2008
Viewers may be disappointed to see little of the peregrines on camera lately. This is an inevitable situation as they have become more mobile. We were fortunate to be watching Saturday evening, when suddenly one of the eyases ran-jumped up the ramp and into the nest box! It joined the other nestling who was sitting in the back of the nest box, nearly out of camera range. This happened about an hour before heavy rains hit the region, and we wondered if the chick hadn’t reacted to thunder. At any rate, the nest box was the best place to be with the storm that raged through. Chick at nestbox ramp

It is clear the young peregrines have made their way onto the roof top, where they will mostly walk around and explore, but also use the wide expanse to run and flap their wings. That kind of exercise is essential to their upcoming first flights, a dangerous time for young falcons.

The multiple roof areas of 101 Hudson Street serve to offer more safe landing places, so it’s not a bad place to learn to fly. The two eyases, both females, might be expected to try their wings the week of June 9, when they turn six weeks old. Until then we hope they will continue to spend time in the nest box, on camera. But as time goes on, expect to see less of them, and count yourself lucky to catch a glimpse as they take over the roof, then take to the skies.

May 23, 2008
Endangered & Nongame Species Program biologists were at 101 Hudson yesterday to band the two nestlings and give them a health check. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the two are close in size; one of the birds had grown faster after its short stay at The Raptor Trust, May 9-15. We determined that both nestlings are females, and they look the same developmentally.

Bands on footThe nestlings were banded with a standard U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band, and, on the left legs, with a bi-color black/green band that can be read from a distance. The bicolor bands have enabled biologists to identify adult peregrines at nests in many eastern states, a development that has greatly improved our knowledge of peregrine population dynamics: where birds return to nest, at what age, and how long they remain at a particular nest site. Fascinating information that also can help identify problems, such as discovering a high turnover rate in the adult population, which would suggest an above-average mortality rate.

The camera view was also changed today so that viewers can see the front of the box as the chicks become more mobile. We left the concrete paver up at the front, to act as a ramp, for the inevitable time when the nestlings jump out but are too small to get back in: the ramp helps them return to the safety of the box.

We hope they are content to remain there for a little longer. They will quickly become darker-looking as their body and flight feathers continue to come in through their white down. At 22 days of age, it will only be another two weeks or so before they will be flapping and trying out their wings. Time flies quickly for us and these fast-developing nestlings!

May 21, 2008
Tomorrow is banding day.

Biologists look forward to this day as the opportunity to determine the gender of the chicks, check their overall health and condition, administer medication to protect them from the pigeon-borne disease trichomoniasis and put thin aluminum bands on their legs for future identification. Hopefully it is our last direct contact with the chicks as soon they will fledge the nest to begin the next phase of their lives learning flying and hunting skills.

Banding takes place in a small rooftop equipment room, so viewers will see an empty nestbox for a period of time. We also plan on switching the camera feeds so the live video will be from the outside camera. See Still Image page to see the view each camera provides.

We'll report back on Friday as to our visit to the roof of 101 Hudson Street.

May 15, 2008
The nestling that biologists removed from the nest (he was near-death due to exposure) spent the last 6 days at The Raptor Trust, and was returned to the 101 Hudson nest today. He joined his nest-mate, the only other nestling to survive last Friday’s nor’easter. The chick is actually a little larger than the one that remained in the nest, possibly due to the human attention and extra feedings. So when we are able to see both in the camera view, and they look different, figure that the larger one is the rehabilitated one.

We are not concerned about the size difference; both will be normal size as they mature and approach fledging age. The adults can easily feed two chicks, since a normal brood is 3 or 4. The loss of the other two nestlings was related to the extremely bad weather conditions at a time when the nestlings were too large for the adult to shield all of them, and before their heavy down plumage had come in. Now that the chicks are two weeks old, they have a heavier down that helps them deal with the changing weather.

Today the nestlings have been largely out of view, as they are both mobile and are choosing to stay near the back of the box, just out of camera view. However, they will move around, and when food arrives, we have the chance to see the feeding action.

Thanks to everyone for their concern over the health and well being of the nestlings. As biologists, we try to strike a balance between intervention, when essential, and knowing that nature should and will take its course. The storms this month have taken their toll on wildlife all over, and nests with young may have been the hardest-hit. Jersey City may have fared better than most. In cases of failure (because of weather, predators, disturbance, etc.) for the adults, they have to try again next year.

May 14, 2008
Things have settled down in Jersey City with the return of milder weather.

The single chick remaining in the nestbox seems to be doing well, and is likely benefiting from the sole attention of the adults. Being the only chick to brood and keep warm during the cool nights we've been having means it is well protected and fed.

The chick at The Raptor Trust has done well and should be returned to the nest before the end of the week, perhaps even tomorrow. Biologists will probably return to the nestbox next week to band the chicks and gather data about them. Hopefully all will continue a bit more smoothly from this point forward.

May 10, 2008
We have had a difficult few days at the nest in Jersey City.

Friday’s easterly winds with cold rain made for harsh weather conditions at a time when the nestlings were just 10 days old, a time when they don’t yet have a thick downy plumage. It was somewhat coincidental that we had scheduled a nest visit for Friday, with the purpose of administering medicine to ward off trichomoniasis, a pigeon-borne disease that can infect and kill young chicks.

Biologists removed the four nestlings from the box and took them inside to check them over. While all were damp and somewhat subdued, one of the four seemed near-death, very cool to the touch and mostly unresponsive. We administered medication, along with small chicken pieces, to three of the nestlings, and they seemed okay. We decided to take the fourth nestling to The Raptor Trust, and we hoped he would live that long.

A couple of surprises: the youngster we took away with us began feeling better once he was warmed up in the truck. The transformation was amazing, from cold and listless to head-up and looking for food. This was an unexpected but welcome development, and, assuming he continues to thrive, we hope to return him to the nestbox in about a week.

The really sad news is that, with the continuing cold and driven rain, the female was not able to keep all three remaining nestlings warm, and one of them died by Friday evening. The female was trying valiantly to keep all of them under her wings, but even she seemed soaked by the rains. To make matters worse, viewers tuning in Saturday morning saw two dead nestlings, a second one succumbing during the night. The sun came out and the remaining chick was moving about, and the adults were feeding and brooding it, but they were also trying to brood the two dead chicks. A decision was made to remove them so that the adults would focus their efforts on the remaining live one, and to try to identify the cause of death. Mack-Cali engineers removed the bodies for future examination, and we greatly appreciate their timely assistance and their courage in facing the defensive adults.

On Sunday, the sun came out for a while in the morning, and the nestling alternated between resting, feeding, sunning and getting brooded by the adult. All seemed well. The weather forecast for Monday seems a repeat of Friday’s harsh weather, but the adults should be able to cope with the conditions with only one young to protect.

While we were there Friday, both adults were very aggressively defending the nest, and we kept our time on the roof as short as possible. We were able to see that the male is the same as previous years, with “*2/*6” on the bicolor leg band (originally banded in 2003 at the Riverside Church in Manhattan). Behaviors suggest the female is the same as well, thought we’ve never been able to read her band.

May 9, 2008
Today's report from Jersey City is one of mild concern.

Biologists visited the nestbox to administer medication helpful in preventing trichomoniasis, a disease which kills many peregrine chicks. Upon examining the chicks in the warm and dry rooftop engineering room it was found that one chick was not doing very well and the decision was made to transport it to The Raptor Trust for evaluation and appropriate treatment.

Our experience with The Raptor Trust has been that the facility deserves the excellent reputation it enjoys. Just last year one of the two-week old nestlings had an impaction in its crop which was successfully treated. We will hope for another happy outcome and monitor the three chicks which were returned to the nestbox.

May 5, 2008
Several feedings were observed yesterday. At one time, both adults were seen in the nestbox together. One arrived with a meal for the chicks and the brooding adult jumped out of the nestbox, hopped around on the roof, moved over to the ledge, and took off.

The brooding adult will occasionally leave the chicks alone in the nestbox for a minute. When this happens, you can get a good look at the chicks. You can see the four little heads. Sometimes they move their little wings. They are almost a week old and have doubled in size!

For this first week of life, the nestlings have not left the nest scrape – the original location of the eggs. That will change soon as the chicks start moving around a little more. They still need an adult to brood them, keep them warm, but they will soon gain a little strength in their legs to move about.
(Submitted by Susan Keiser and Kathy Clark.)

April 30, 2008 at 4:30 p.m.
All four chicks were observed feeding around 4 pm.

The next milestone will be banding the chicks in about three weeks. Enjoy your viewing - and check Nestbox News for information on any developments.

April 30, 2008 at 2:15 p.m.
The fourth egg hatched a short time ago - we were fortunate enough to see the female pull the broken eggshell out from beneath her at 2:05 and consume it. By doing so the adult replenishes some of the calcium she expended to produce the eggs in the first place.

April 30, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.
The eggs have hatched, and some peregrine watchers caught a glimpse of newly-hatched chicks yesterday!

One viewer (Edda Podleska) e-mailed us late yesterday that she'd seen that the "...chicks left the shells." This morning we observed the brooding adult get off the nest when the mate arrived with freshly killed prey. Three chicks fed enthusiastically on the pieces the adult gently offered each. It appears two eggs hatched yesterday, and we expect the other one to hatch later today or tomorrow.

Viewing will be much more interesting now as the parents go about the labor-intensive period of obtaining food and feeding their chicks, all the while protecting them from the extremes of weather often experienced this time of year cool nights and sometimes blistering daytime heat. The adult will continue to sit very closely as she broods the chicks and eggs both. With a chill in the air, the adults may keep feeding sessions short – just enough to satisfy the little ones and get back to brooding.

Keep an eye on the webcam for some great viewing of one of nature's wondrous shows - there will be much more action in the nest in the days and weeks to come!

April 24, 2008
There are only a few days left in the incubation period. Soon the peregrine chicks will start cheeping while they are still in their shells. The cheeping will get louder once they begin to hatch.

Hatching will begin as the chicks make a pip (hole) in the interior air sac. After that they will start the exterior pipping until they finally emerge from their shell. During this time the adult will be aware of the impending hatch, and she will look down often.

After the first egg hatches, the others will follow shortly. This gives each chick in the brood an equal start.

Make sure you check out the site often during this very exciting time.
(Submitted by Susan Keiser.)

April 15, 2008
Tax Day for some of us, but not for our dedicated falcons.

It's a bright sunny day in Jersey City, making it perfect weather for running to the post office to have those tax returns stamped before midnight. However, all of this activity goes unnoticed by our falcons, as their only focus is the life being formed in the eggs they care for so intently.

As we count the days in anticipation of the big day when news of the hatchlings arrives, continue to check in on our dedicated pair. Watch in silence and wonderment as we've been given this opportunity to see nature in action.

And you will see plenty of action when the hatchlings arrive with their never-ending quest to be fed. You will be in awe of nature as the hatchlings seem to grow from tiny little birds into fledging falcons almost overnight. You will smile as they seemingly try to figure out what these things are on the side of their body and as they begin to explore their environment. You will be proud, nervous and anxious as they learn to fly. You will be sad when they leave the nest, yet hopeful they survive and sit with dedication on eggs of their own. You will experience such joy when you hear that a falcon from Jersey City has been sighted somewhere in our area!

Keep watching and be prepared for a great experience!
(Submitted by long-time JC watcher Kathy Cregan.)

April 6, 2008
If you have been tuning in to the webcam, with rare exceptions you have seen an incubating bird. The endless hours and days of incubation can seem monotonous, but this period quietly demonstrates the commitment and perseverance necessary for "survival of the fittest." Peregrines must defend the nest area against intruders, provide food for the female performing most of the incubation duties, and attend closely to their eggs.

Through incubation, our peregrines are maintaining the eggs at approximately 96 degrees, allowing development of the embryos inside. They also turn the eggs three or four times a day to prevent any one portion from sticking to one side of the shell. During this period, the eggs are not left unattended; on a warm day we may see the eggs for a minute or two, but incubation breaks are brief and an adult usually returns quickly.

With March 27 as the approximate start of full incubation, we expect hatching to occur around April 28. Watch and wait.

March 28, 2008
Incubation is in progress!

Sometime in the past week the Jersey City peregrines atop 101 Hudson St. produced four eggs and began incubation. We know this because we resolved the technical glitches and now are streaming live video! Visit the live webcam page to follow the activities of the 2008 season!

March 20, 2008
Welcome back to Nestbox News! Since 2001 we've chronicled the successes and failures, along with the elation and heartbreak, of the peregrine falcons atop 101 Hudson Street in Jersey City.

Yesterday staff visited the building to activate the webcam for the 2008 season. Unfortunately, a technical glitch isn't allowing the live streaming video - we hope to have the problem resolved sometime next week.

We can report that two birds are present, and one spent time in the nest box. No eggs have been laid yet, but we anticipate egg laying and incubation to start soon. A few pairs elsewhere in the state have eggs and are just beginning incubation, signs that spring is really here!

We hope you will watch with us this season as the webcam offers us a window into peregrine nesting that is now happening statewide. Peregrines now range from Elizabeth and Newark, to the Palisades, along the Jersey shore to Cape May County, and along the Delaware Bay and River. They have come a long way, and are an inspiration to those of us who marvel at their speed and beauty. So look up, and look in on Jersey City.

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