The soap opera starts in 2020. A couple lives peacefully together in a high-rise in a big city. A new woman rushes in, throws the resident woman out, and teams up with her husband (house robber!). You bring up a child. Tragically, the father dies in an accident. The resident woman quickly finds a new lover.
But these are not people. They are peregrine falcons that live high up on a building in downtown Richmond, Virginia. Their story takes place on a live webcam, which will be back in operation for the breeding season in 2021.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) monitors a hawk nesting box on the west tower of Riverfront Plaza in downtown. The Riverfront Plaza is 22 stories above Byrd Street on the James River. During the season, the site is monitored 24/7 by a public webcam so anyone can follow the falcons’ family life.
Falcons don’t build a typical nest. You simply arrange the gravel in the box as you wish. Up to five eggs are laid in March or April. Both the male and the female take turns with the eggs, although the female spends most of the time in the nest and the male spends most of the time foraging for food. After a few weeks of incubation, the chicks hatch. It is normal for some eggs not to hatch. In 2020 only one in four hatched.
After hatching, the chicks grow quickly. You will transform from a fuzzy ball hiding under a parent to a swift predator with full feathers in about 40 days. There are some comical interludes as the curious young birds learn to walk and fly. DWR specialists sneak into the nest and tie up the chicks before they fledge. This allows the DWR to identify them and track their movements in the future.
Hawks feed primarily on other birds. So don’t be surprised to see a little blood. No bird lover likes a woodpecker turned into breakfast, but that’s nature.
And the hawks really are as fast as you heard. Their level flight may only be 25 to 34 mph, but on a dive called stooping they can literally reach 200 mph.
Since the camera went live for the 2021 season, mom and dad have hung out in the nest every day and shared some meals. No eggs have been laid so far. Hopefully that will change soon. Click that link and then click the bookmark button as you will want to check back every day. You can see for yourself at dwr.virginia.gov/falcon-cam.