Nottingham Trent University's (NTU) Newton building is home to a pair of peregrine falcons who use a nest box provided in partnership with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. These webcams stream the pair's activities live for excited viewers to follow the breeding season online from laying to fledging.
WARNING: These webcams show live footage of wild peregrine falcons. Please understand that at times this may include images that you might find disturbing.
January: Both cameras back online and maintenance of the scrape carried out. There are still problems synchronising the sound which are being investigated by NTU.
15th March: First egg laid around midnight.
17th March: Second egg laid in the morning.
20th March: Last sightings of the female (Mrs P) followed by reports of a dead peregrine found in the City Centre (Lace Market area).
22nd March: Initial observations and lack of subsequent sightings suggest that the dead peregrine is indeed the female from the NTU nest (Mrs P). Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust are working to establish a cause of death. Mrs P is a long-serving female at this nest and has been very successful at raising chicks over the years and will be missed by many fans. A new female peregrine has been spotted at the nest site bowing with the resident male (Archie). This courtship behaviour suggests a new pairing may be formed soon.
24th March: Mating between the new female (believed to be from a nest site in Charing Cross, the same nest site where the male is thought to have originated from) and the resident male was seen taking place just before 8am. As it is still early in the nesting season there is a chance there still may be chicks in the NTU nest this year. The male (Archie) is still regularly spending time incubating the two eggs already in the nest, however, we would expect the new female may remove these eggs from the nest if/when she lays her own.
25th March: After a little more digging we’ve discovered more detail about the new female falcon on the scene. She would appear to be Archie’s niece and hatched in 2019. They were both from the nest of a pair known as the ‘Parliament Pair’ and assuming there has been no change in adult birds at their nest, her mother is Archie's sister which hatched in 2010 - with Archie following in 2012.
From time to time raptors, including peregrines, do mate with birds they are related to but many pairs are not entirely faithful and have additional pair matings. This means that a clutch of eggs may be fertilised by several males so even when a pair are related it is unlikely that all the chicks will carry the male bird’s genes.
With the new female being so young this is almost certainly the first time she has attempted to pair up and breed. Whilst she is inexperienced it is hoped that she will lay at least one egg and with Archie’s help, she may have a successful first season.
Thanks to the author of 'Urban Peregrines' Ed Drewitt and Nathalie Mahieu, Peregrine Monitor for peregrines at Charing Cross Hospital for this information.
5th April: At 00:19 the first egg was laid by the new female peregrine, The first two eggs still remain in the nest.
7th April: A second egg has been spotted in the nest laid by the new female (P9). That makes four eggs in total, two by the previous female and two by the new female.
20th April: The top webcam feed now has sound thanks to the team at NTU. Listen out for the pair calling to each other, especially when they are swapping over incubation.
30th April: We are actively trying to establish a cause of death of what we’re pretty sure was Mrs P. Because she had no identification ring we can never be 100% certain, but the circumstances are pretty clear cut. Mrs P was missing, the dead bird appeared to have her distinctive extra-long upper beak, and a new female has taken her place. There may have been some sort of squabble or physical interaction, perhaps leading Mrs P to crash into a building whilst trying to avoid an attack. Alternatively, Mrs P, who was relatively old for a wild peregrine, may have succumbed to exhaustion due to being harried by the new comer and being kept from feeding or resting.
As our involvement with this nest site is to ensure that these protected birds are properly monitored, we have arranged x-rays of the dead peregrine to check for evidence of poisoning and we’re awaiting the results of a detailed post-mortem. We will publish what information and updates we can in the weeks ahead but for now we have no reason to suspect foul play – so perhaps we should reflect on the fact that there are likely to be peregrines carrying her DNA raising chicks of the their own across the UK.
To give an insight into the work that goes on behind the scenes we’re also hosting a special free online webinar on the evening of Thursday May 20th which can be booked online here.
5th May: The first chick has hatched!
27th May: We can announce that the chick is a healthy boy!
The chick had its ring fitted today so you may have seen that the cameras were turned off for a short period whilst this happened. The chick and its ring number will be logged with BTO for future reference and sightings. To keep disturbance of the nest and any intervention to a minimum it was decided to leave the remaining eggs and clear the nest at the end of the breeding season.
18th June: The chick looks like a chick no more and has almost lost all of his fluff amongst his beautiful feathers. Most often out of camera sight, he is still about moving from ledge to ledge on the building. He will soon be off to find his own territory but it is expected that the parents will remain in the area all year as in previous years.
16th March: First egg laid just after 6pm
2nd April: Second egg laid at around 2.30pm
5th April: Third egg laid at around 12.30am
6th May: First chick hatches at 2pm
Early June: Chick is rapidly shedding down feathers and is spending more time exploring the ledge.
11th June: Chick has made its way to the lower ledge of the Newton building our of view of the cameras. The chick hasn't fully fledged and is still being fed by its parents.
15th June: First recorded glimpse of the chick in flight. Our 2020 chick has successfully fledged! Read the FAQs below to learn more about fledging and what happens next.
We get a lot of enquiries regarding our peregrine falcons as soon as the breeding season starts in March. If you have any queries please read through our frequently asked questions and hopefully we will have already answered them!
The webcam is not playing, who should I contact?
If all you can see are two black squares, please click or tap on one of them. It may take a second or two to load but then the live stream should start playing.
If you find that the webcam has frozen please try refreshing the page first and check your internet connection.
There can be problems watching the webcam when using Internet Explorer, please try a different browser such as Chrome or Firefox if you are having difficulties loading the webcam.
If you have tried the above and are still having difficulties viewing the cameras and there appears to be something wrong with the webcam please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will let Nottingham Trent University know.
Why do they choose to nest here?
Peregrine falcons are wild birds; they choose their own nesting sites. They chose to nest on the ledge of the Newton building and were first discovered when the University was investigating building work. Later, when the university carried out the refurbishment, they provided the nestbox to allow the peregrines to continue to breed undisturbed – and to ensure the university and their contractors did not break the law.
Here in Nottingham, the peregrines’ presence will have a minimal impact upon local breeding bird populations as peregrines have large territories and travel over a large area to hunt. The birds are foraging well away from the town centre. Some of the species preyed upon are migrant Scandinavian breeding birds caught as they migrate north along the River Trent.
I can sometimes see wooden planks visible at the bottom of the nest, could this damage the eggs or cause a falcon to get caught?
The nest box is designed to allow drainage and prevent the nest becoming one big puddle! When the adults dig around in the nest (or scrape) the wood at the bottom of the nest can sometimes become visible. Please don't worry, the nest box currently installed has produced many successful broods.
Peregrines nesting in urban areas, on buildings, is becoming increasingly common. However, the traditional peregrine falcon nest site is usually on rocky cliff ledges. Unlike other birds of prey such as ospreys, peregrines do not bring in material to build a nest to protect the eggs.
How can I tell whether a peregrine falcon is male or female?
The best way to tell the male and female apart is their size. The adult female is considerably larger than the adult male – up to a third bigger overall. As well as being smaller, male birds also tend to have a more slender look. Females can often have bolder, more striking markings, and our long serving previous resident female (Known by fans as Mrs P) had a noticeably longer beak than the male. 2021 female is considerably larger.
How many eggs are usually laid per year?
Peregrine falcon's usually lay between 3-4 eggs each year.
The eggs aren't being incubated, are they alright?
Incubation doesn't really begin until all the eggs are laid. This means that all chicks hatch at a similar time, reducing the differences in size. Once the last egg is laid both parents share the incubation.
How long before the eggs hatch?
Incubation starts once the last egg is laid and lasts for around 29-32 days. Both the male and female share the incubation.
Will any unhatched eggs be removed and checked or are they left?
We tend not to remove unhatched eggs until we clear the nest at the end of the season or ahead of the new breeding season. We're not currently set up to do any DNA testing on the eggs so there is no reason to remove them.
I can't see the chicks on the camera, are they alright?
Please try not to worry if you can't see the chicks on the camera. We have a lot of concerns after around the 4 week mark that viewers can't see the chicks on the camera and that they may have fallen off the ledge. It is around this time that the chicks are big enough to start exploring the ledge despite not being ready to fledge. They often wander out of view of the cameras so please don't panic.
How old are the chicks when they fledge?
The chicks usually fledge 35-42 days after hatching, it will then be another few months until they are independent of their parents.
How will the fledged chicks learn to hunt, and when will they leave the parents?
Peregrines will withhold food items and encourage them to take longer flights. At this time, the adults will drop prey in mid-air for them to catch in a food pass – this activity contributes to bringing about the day when they will become independent. The loosening of ties with the parents is gradual and spread over several weeks, during which time they gradually learn to fend for themselves. The adults will continue to feed them until they disperse naturally. There is no evidence that the adults drive juveniles away – it is likely that they will detach themselves from the parents as instinct dictates.
Will the fledged chick return to the site? How far away from the birth site do they usually fly?
Once they have mastered the art of flying, they will probably still be dependent on their parents for food for a little while longer. We think they'll stay within a 60-mile radius.
There often seems to be one chick who doesn't get fed adequately. Why is this, and can you help?
It is likely that this will be the chick that hatched last, and because of this it will be a couple of days behind its siblings. If the conditions are difficult the parents will focus their efforts on the largest, healthiest chicks most likely to survive. We are not able to interfere as peregrine falcons are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside act and disturbing them is a criminal offence. Read more about this here.
Although to us some aspects of raising a peregrine family may seem cruel it is important to remember that these are wild birds and they are simply acting naturally.
Why are the chicks ringed and how are they ringed?
The ringing team waits until the parents are away from the nest and the whole operation is carried out as quickly as possible, often in under ten minutes, this is to minimise any disturbance or stress to the chicks. They are usually ringed around 3 weeks old. We wait until the adults are away from the ledge before accessing the nest but they are often in the vicinity and make it clear that they are not happy by flying overhead and calling. We therefore do the ringing as quickly as posisble to minimise disturbance and distress. Ringing is part of a scientific monitoring programme and it is very unlikely that a carefully executed ringing operation would cause any risk of the parents abandoning the nest. We would encourage you to watch the video made with NTU about the ringing of the 2012 chicks.
Why can't we watch the peregrine chicks getting ringed?
Once a year Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust visit the nest to attach identification rings on the legs of the chicks. The cameras are turned off by Nottingham Trent University as the birds are protected and in the past people have worried that the chicks are being stolen and have mistakenly called the police. The ringer also obscures the view of the camera as they have to stand in front of it to reach the chicks. We try to take better video and photographs during the ringing process rather than live-stream it.
If you can visit the nest for the ringing process, then why can't you intervene if the chicks are struggling?
The decision about whether to intervene when the chicks were struggling is a much wider issue. It is possible that during a difficult period any further stress could lead to the adults abandoning the nest completely. Most importantly, we will not intervene as they are wild birds, and if we removed them from the nest it would be almost impossible to return them to the wild.
If a chick dies, why can't you remove it from the nest?
If we remove chicks from the nest in this way we would almost certainly be guilty of an offence under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, due to the risk of disturbance. Once a problem has been observed, the female will very rarely leave the nest – sitting tight and doing her best to keep the chicks warm. Therefore, if we access the nest at a time when the adult birds are under severe stress, we would risk the parents deserting the nest site.
In terms of the design and location of the nest itself, it has been successful over many years, raising numerous clutches. While we can see both sides of the argument regarding intervening, we feel that as they are wild birds we should let nature take its course. The cameras were initially installed for security, to prevent the nest being attacked. We now have the added privilege of being able to share the ability to observe the family with the general public – even if the viewing can become difficult at times.
If a chick does die and you are not able to intervene, what happens to it?
It is most likely that the mother will at some point move them out of the nest, but there is also a possibility that she may eat them, and feed them to the surviving chicks.
When and how often is data about ringed falcons recovered?
Whereas small birds are often trapped as part of monitoring operations, providing good levels of data about movements, age ranges and populations etc, peregrines are not routinely trapped as there is no safe way to catch them other than in an emergency situation. Therefore, data about ringed chicks is quite rare as it is only gathered when a chick is found dead or injured - or when they occupy a nest with cameras suitable to give a good view of the ring.
Do you keep any records of the pigeon rings discarded in or around the nest?
Why doesn't the nest have a roof for shelter?
A nest box with a roof was trialled many years ago, but the falcons chose to ignore it. Very early on when they first arrived they laid their eggs in the gutter, and consequently these were washed away. This is why we installed the tray-style box we have today.
Do peregrines eat their own eggshells?
While eating the shells would make good sense, both in terms of preventing the white interiors of the eggs giving away the location of the nest to predators and as a means of recovering minerals lost in the egg making process, there is nothing to suggest that all female peregrines do this. One expert, Derek Ratcliffe, has suggested in his book that peregrines nibble at the shells to break them up rather than to eat them. All of this research is thanks to Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project.
What can I do to help the peregrine falcons?
Whilst peregrine numbers are stable, the birds still need protection so supporting conservation organisations such as The Wildlife Trusts is one way to help. They also need a healthy environment in which to thrive, so anything you can do in terms of making your garden more wildlife friendly will help overall.