Nottingham Trent University's 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 disturbing images.
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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!
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.
The webcam is not playing, who should I contact?
If you find that the webcam has frozen please try refreshing the page first. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if there appears to be something wrong with the webcam 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 resident female has a noticeably longer beak than the male.
How many eggs are usually laid per year?
Peregrine falcon's usually lay between 3-4 eggs each year.
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.
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?
Our peregrines are experienced parents and 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. The falcons we have nesting in Nottingham are experiences parents and have a fantastic track record of raising healthy broods. However 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.
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. 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?
One 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 then 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, the pair have used it very successfully 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.
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.