Live camera shows peregrine falcons nesting on Alcatraz Island

Live camera shows peregrine falcons nesting on Alcatraz Island

Just decades ago, peregrine falcons were largely absent from California and much of the U.S. amid widespread use of pesticides. But now, a pair of the fastest birds in the world are nesting on Alcatraz Island in what officials call a "tremendous conservation success" – and you can watch their family blossom live online.

The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has launched a live stream of the peregrine falcon nest, one of the first known in recent years on the island that once served as a prison for some of the country's most notorious criminals. The nest was created by a falcon named Larry, short for Lawrencium, who was hatched on the University of California, Berkeley's bell tower. Larry and her male partner were first spotted breeding in 2019.

It wasn't immediately clear if the pair were nesting on the island, but by 2020, the conservancy said it was clear they were raising their family in a cave on the west side of the island. In April 2023, they welcomed four chicks on Alcatraz Island, which the National Park Service says "has long been a sanctuary for birds."

"Peregrines are the apex predators of the island, which means they can occasionally be seen preying on other birds," the NPS says, adding that parts of the island are closed from February to September to allow for nests.

Biologists with the National Park Service have been monitoring the Alcatraz nest since last year, but now with the live stream, the conservancy hopes to "share this incredible view of a wild peregrine falcon nest with the world."

"These are wild animals and the camera will show Peregrines bringing prey to the nest and feeding nestlings," the group says.

Peregrine falcon populations were once "driven to the brink of extinction," according to the National Park Service, and were considered endangered under the law that preceded 1973's Endangered Species Act. Considered to be "one of nature's swiftest and most beautiful birds of prey," the animals saw the significant decline in population numbers as organic pollutants, namely the synthetic insecticide DDT, severely thinned egg shells. But in 1999, they were removed from the endangered species list.

"This impressive bird has long been noted for its speed, grace, and aerial skills," the National Park Service says. "Now, it is also a symbol of America's recovering threatened and endangered species."

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