Nesting Season Begins with New Partners and New Female Falcon
Welcome to Falcon Cam 2017! We are glad to be up and running thanks to our new partner Comcast Business whose support makes this camera possible. Thanks also to Virginia Tourism for their previous hosting of the camera 2006 – 2016. Without partners like Comcast Business and Virginia Tourism we would not be able to broadcast the falcon camera to the public.
The Falcon Cam also kicks off the season with major news to report: the female which has been part of this breeding falcon pair for several years has been replaced by a new female. We first observed the new bird at the nest box on February 14; the next day two scrapes (shallow bowls in the gravel, which form a nest) were seen in the nest box. We observed the new female at the nest box again on the 16th and on the 17th we observed her with the banded male. This new female is unbanded; therefore, we have no way of knowing her origin or age. She is much different in appearance than the previous breeding female, with more extensive barring and a distinctive buffy wash to the throat, breast and belly.
The previous breeding female, also unbanded, was believed to have been with this male since the falcons first paired and started breeding in Richmond. Peregrine Falcons are monogamous, so unfortunately, replacement of an individual within the pair typically occurs when that individual dies. This previous female was believed to have been of the same age as the male, and would have been over 16 years old in 2016. As this is nearing the known upper limit of longevity for peregrines in the wild, she lived a long and productive life. Since the time when she first bred in 2003, she produced 61 eggs, which yielded 36 chicks, of which 31 survived to banding age. Some of her offspring have gone on to breed in other states. She has delighted countless Falcon Cam viewers who have followed her through several breeding seasons, cheering her successes and mourning her losses. Her iconic status as part of the Richmond skyline and her legacy for helping to grow
the population of this imperiled species will be long remembered.
It is unknown exactly what happened to the previous adult female. On October 2, 2016, an adult female Peregrine Falcon with no bands was found alive, but injured, on the ground near East Broad and 14th Street in downtown Richmond. The falcon was picked up by Richmond Animal Control and transferred to The Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV) that same day. An examination showed that the bird suffered a severe spinal fracture, almost certainly due to a collision with a vehicle. The bird had to be euthanized.
We attempted to determine whether this euthanized bird may have been the Richmond breeding female through photo comparisons and DNA testing. Photographs of the euthanized bird showed both differences and similarities in appearance to the breeding Richmond female, so it could not be conclusively determined whether the two were the same individual. For the DNA test, the euthanized bird’s DNA was compared to a DNA sample from an offspring of the Richmond female, a young female falcon named Maggie that hatched from the Riverfront Plaza nest in 2014 (Maggie lives at WCV as a non-releasable education bird due to injuries she suffered after colliding with a building shortly after fledging). The test results showed the two birds as being highly related. However, the results also indicated the birds’ relationship type was not that of a parent and offspring, meaning that the euthanized falcon could not be the breeding Richmond female. Although the DNA evidence does not support that this particular individual was the Richmond female, the behavioral evidence of a new bird replacing the breeding Richmond female highly suggests that she has died. Unfortunately, we may not ever know any details as to how, when, or where this occurred.
While we will fondly remember the female who had nested for so long at this site, we look forward to getting to know the new female and hope to enjoy a successful breeding season at the Richmond Falcon Cam. Updates will be posted on this page as major life cycle events occur. Please also be sure to check out our new Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about Peregrine Falcons and their life cycle as the season unfolds.