We thank you for following Richmond’s falcon pair this year. Given that the pair’s nesting cycle has concluded (although not with the hoped for outcome), the camera is now offline for the season. We look forward to coming back online early next year as courtship and breeding resume anew, and hope for a better future nesting outcome. In the meantime, we will continue monitoring the pair and will post any news should there be signs that they will re-nest this year.
At ~9:55 am this morning, we accessed the ledge with the nest box and collected the remaining three eggs. All three are intact with no visible cracks. They will be sent to a lab for contaminant testing later in the year.
With the expected hatch date for the first egg well behind us, it is certain that this year’s clutch has, unfortunately, failed. Yesterday afternoon (May 1) at approximately 1:20 pm the female was observed consuming the yolk from one of the eggs, which was revealed to be cracked when she stood up from incubating. The undeveloped embryo was removed shortly after by the male. (See below for photos of the egg eating.) Consumption of a broken egg is not uncommon in peregrine falcons: damaged eggs are no longer treated as an egg by a parent, whose instinct is to eat them.
Egg failure in peregrine falcons can be due to several reasons. The birds’ reproductive potential decreases as they age past their reproductive peak. The banded male of the pair was hatched in 2000; he is 16 years old. We cannot confirm the age of the female because she is unbanded, but she has been recognizable as the same individual since at least 2006 or 2007 via available photographs; as such, she is likely at least 10 years old. According to the US Geological Survey, the maximum lifespan documented for a banded falcon in the wild is 19 years and 9 months (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/longevity/longevity_main.cfm).
We do not know the extent to which declining reproductive vigor may have been responsible for this year’s loss of the nest. Generally speaking, not all peregrine falcon eggs are hatched in all years. Reasons for hatching failure include egg infertility, death of embryos, and breakage and removal of eggs. Since 2003, the Richmond falcons have only hatched all of their eggs on 4 occasions; in 2013 they lost all 5 of their eggs in their first of 2 nesting attempts that year. Including this year’s nest loss, the pair has produced 61 eggs since 2003, of which 33 (46%) have hatched; of these, 30 chicks survived to flight age.
We plan on accessing the nest box on May 3 (weather permitting) in order to collect the remaining three non-viable eggs. These will be analyzed for potential contaminants. Although it is late in the season, there is a possibility that the pair will re-nest at this or at another site in the greater downtown Richmond area; collecting the eggs increases the probability of this happening. Re-nesting typically takes place within 2-3 weeks of nest failure.
As you may have noticed, the cam stream is experiencing technical difficulties. The streaming service is working on the issue and hopes to have it resolved in the near future. We apologize for the inconvenience. Despite the streaming issue, we are still able to monitor the falcons through the camera directly.
Unfortunately, we do not have any hatching news to report. The date window, in which we expected hatching to occur has passed. Based on when we know the first and second eggs were laid, hatching was expected to have occurred by April 27th at the latest. We are now two days beyond that date and no pips (the first crack made in an eggshell by a hatching chick) have been observed. However, we will optimistically continue to closely monitor the cam over the weekend for any hatching evidence. Should there be any hatching news to report, we will certainly post it.
Again, we apologize for the disruption in the cam stream. Rest assured the issue is being addressed and hopefully, it will be back up and running soon!
We’ve been observing the falcon cam closely over the last few days for signs of egg hatching. Nothing to report yet, but we did want to share a few photos of the adults with their clutch. In the meantime, we will continue to watch the cam carefully and report any news of hatching as we observe it.
Female taking a break from incubating the clutch.
Male (left) and female (right) during an incubation exchange.
The male just before taking a turn at incubating the clutch.
We’ve been able to confirm that the pair has four eggs in their clutch! See the video below for the moment that the four eggs were first observed. In the footage, the fourth egg is visible around the 42-second mark, during which the female momentarily pushes it just barely into view with her foot as she approaches the other 3 eggs sitting in plain sight. Later in the evening, we received better views of the four-egg clutch. Scroll down to see some snapshots.
The four-egg clutch.
Male peregrine falcon with the four eggs just before sitting to incubate.
The female peregrine falcon arranges the four eggs just before sitting to incubate. The top of a fourth egg is just barely visible above the edge of the nest box.
We are finally able to confirm that there are at least three eggs in this year’s clutch! In the video below, three distinct eggs are visible as the female Peregrine Falcon shifts her incubating position.
Nailing down a hatch date is still difficult as we have not yet ruled out the possibility that there could be a fourth egg. However, if there are indeed just three eggs, we will very likely see the hatching begin April 21-24, as incubation would have most likely begun when the second egg was laid. If there are more eggs than these three, the onset of hatching will be later, but since we don’t know when exactly the third egg was laid, that hatch date window is less predictable.
The number of eggs in the clutch remains uncertain, but all laying should be completed by now. We know that the female laid at least two eggs, but can’t confirm any more than that at this time. The typical clutch size for Peregrine Falcons is 3 – 4 eggs (although, one year this pair did have a clutch of 5).
The Richmond female incubating her clutch.
For Peregrine Falcons, incubation usually begins when the second to last egg is laid. This pair is currently in their incubation phase, but given the uncertainty on the number of eggs laid, it is not entirely clear when exactly it began. A typical incubation period for Peregrine Falcons is 33-35 days. Incubation duties are shared by the male and female, but the female usually does the majority of it.
Since we don’t know when incubation officially began, predicting this year’s hatch date is difficult. If there are indeed only 2 eggs in their clutch and incubation began when the second egg was laid, we anticipate that hatching could begin April 21-24, but if incubation began when the first egg was laid, hatching could begin even sooner. In the case that there are more eggs than what we’ve been able to observe, then the hatch date may very well be a little bit later. The falcons sure are keeping us on our toes this year!
In the meantime, we will keep watching closely for incubation exchanges between the male and female and their occasional shifting of the eggs in hopes that we will be able to confirm the clutch size.
With the location of the scrape against the front edge of the nest box and the parents’ skillful measures to keep the eggs hidden, it has been difficult to confirm whether or not a third egg has been laid. We have seen occasional brief glimpses of the eggs, but only one or two have been visible at any given time. However, in the video below, recorded Tuesday, it appears that the male may be arranging three different eggs in the scrape. Again, it is not a clear look, so we can not officially confirm that there are three eggs, but watch below and see what you think. In the meantime, we will continue to keep a close eye on the nest box to see if we can get an accurate count on the number of eggs.
Yesterday afternoon, the male peregrine falcon revealed that there are now two eggs in the scrape! The female most likely laid this second egg early Sunday morning or possibly on Saturday evening. Watch the video below for the male’s reveal of the second egg.
Late this morning the female Peregrine Falcon laid her first egg of the season! The egg is resting at the bottom of the scrape, which is relatively deep and closely positioned to the front edge of the nest box, so it has been difficult to get good looks at it. However, a subtle glimpse of the egg could be seen early this afternoon when the male took his first turn sitting upon it. It was seen again later during some other sitting transitions between the female and male and when they both took a break from sitting for a bit late in the afternoon.
The female has spent much of her time today sitting on the egg (a protective measure), but true incubation will not begin in earnest until the third egg of the clutch is laid. Peregrine Falcons typically lay a clutch of 3–4 eggs, which has been the case for this pair as well. We will continue to watch closely for any subsequent eggs, which usually follow in intervals of 48–72 hours.
Male Peregrine Falcon with the egg later this afternoon.
The best look yet of the egg could be seen as the pair took a brief break from sitting late this afternoon. (The egg is visible just below the center of the photo along the edge of the nest box.)
Female Peregrine Falcon sitting on her first laid egg of the season.
DGIF is proud to present the Richmond Falcon Cam in live stream. The Cam will now display a live broadcast as opposed to refreshing a still image every 3 seconds as it had in years past. We are very excited about this update to the Cam and hope you will enjoy the enhanced viewing experience that the live streaming provides.
Male and female together at the nest box. (Male on top of box and female below.)
To distinguish the female and the male peregrine falcons, look for the following features. As is the case for most raptors, the female is larger than the male. The Richmond female has a buffy breast and belly with some sparse barring, whereas the male has dark barring across his breast and belly. The male is banded with silver, black, and red leg bands and the female is unbanded.
Over the last week, we have continued to observe the male and female spending large amounts of time around the nest box and increasingly more time together at the nest box. Today, copulation was observed between the pair. The male has also started a couple of new scrapes in the box, since our last posting, with the current one at the front of the nest box, just to the right of center. (A scrape is a shallow depression that falcons make in gravel or other substrate for nesting purposes.)
Male preening as the female rests atop the nest box.
Male stands in the most recent scrape with the female above.
Welcome to another year of the Richmond Falcon Cam!
Male peregrine falcon perched on building parapet.
DGIF staff redeployed the nest box and camera to the ledge of the Riverfront Plaza building on February 18th after confirming that all ledge work has been completed. (You may notice in the photo above that the ledge has been repaved and has new flashing on the walls.) Although the birds themselves were not spotted by our staff while they were out on the building ledge, we did
Female peregrine falcon standing in the scrape.
observe the pair on-camera a few times this week as well as a scrape in the nest box. (A scrape is a shallow depression that falcons make in gravel or other substrate for nesting purposes.) Yesterday afternoon, the female was even observed standing in the scrape for an extended period of time; a sign that she may once again select this nest box as her nesting site!
Click the link below to watch a video, in which the falcon pair makes a dramatic entrance into the nest box.
We apologize for the lack of live video on the Richmond Falcon Cam Blog. We’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties with the camera’s connection to our website and are therefore unable to provide live public viewing of the falcons at this time. In the meantime, DGIF staff are still able to use the camera for monitoring purposes and will continue to monitor the falcons and share video, photos, and news of their activities on the blog as in years past. Despite these technical difficulties, we hope that you will continue to follow our blog and join us for another breeding season in the lives of the Richmond Falcons.
This morning the Falcon Cam camera and nest box were temporarily removed from the roof of the Riverfront Plaza building in order to clear the way for a roofing project.
When DGIF staff first arrived on the roof, the female falcon made her presence known with a couple of fly-bys and some light swoops. Half a minute later she appeared to lose interest and perched on the sign of a nearby building. She remained there throughout the removal process.
If you’ve checked in on the Falcon Cam recently, you may have noticed that the McGuire Woods sign, a frequent perching site of the falcon pair, has been removed from the building across the street from the nest box. The sign was removed because the firm is moving to another location.
The Falcon Cam will remain off-line until the Riverfront Plaza building’s roofing project is fully completed.