HARRISBURG, Pa. — For 17 consecutive years, Harrisburg peregrine falcons continue to use the 15th floor ledge of the Rachel Carson State Office Building as a nest site that provides shelter, ready food sources and the doting attention of admirers around the world.
The many fans who binge-watch the Department of Environmental Protection’s FalconCam find that life on the ledge can be life on the edge, with all the plot twists nature can devise.
Courtship season is no exception. The current peregrine pair are a nearly 14-year-old male (band code *W/*V, black over red) that has occupied the nest site for 13 years and a nearly 8-year-old female (48/AE, black over green) that has occupied the nest site for 5 years.
In early January, a banded younger male arrived at the ledge, apparently with bonding in mind, and the elder male disappeared. After much speculation by dedicated falcon fans, the elder returned a few weeks later and reclaimed the nest site.
An unbanded younger female then showed up at the nest site, but the older female held off the territorial challenge. So for now, at least, the pair have the ledge to themselves.
They’ve been breeding at the Harrisburg site for the past four years.
During courtship, the male will offer food to the female and engage in spectacular displays of flight and hunting skills to impress the female with his abilities as a provider.
He also bows to his mate and the pair engage in great vocal interaction. If their courtship is successful, the female should begin laying eggs around mid-March.
Since 2000, 61 of the 73 eggs produced have hatched. Thirty-five have been females, 25 have been males, and the sex of one hatchling (in 2008) was undetermined. All were banded by biologists with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Peregrine falcons are among the fastest animals on earth, attaining speeds over 200 miles per hour.
The Harrisburg Falcons website shares the history of peregrines’ remarkable comeback after DDT was banned and a yearlong calendar of seasonal activity that charts the course of falcon life, from courtship to nesting, fledglings, banding, and the young adults’ departure from the nest.
Teachers can find lesson plans, parents can find falcon stories for children, and there are links to other bird cams around Pennsylvania.
Recent technology upgrades to the FalconCam mean that followers can watch the Harrisburg falcons in high definition, with more camera angle options, and even infrared nighttime viewing.
They can share their photos and observations on Twitter, using #hbgfalcons, and catch all the DEP falcon videos, photos and news @FalconChatter, on Facebook and Instagram.