Five FalconCam chicks flourishing, banded for WBS research

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Through a partnership of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Ameren Missouri and the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), people around the world have been getting a bird’s-eye view of peregrine falcons raising five chicks in a nest box at Ameren’s Sioux Energy Center in St. Louis. A camera mounted near the birds’ nest box provides video feeds to each organization’s website.

Ameren staff installed the webcam at the nest site in early January with this year’s nesting activities first spotted in the beginning of February. According to WBS Director Jeff Meshach, the female peregrine falcon laid five eggs in mid-March, which hatched in mid-April.

Meshach placed leg bands on the five falcon chicks on May 14. The process took about one hour and involved removing the chicks from the nest and taking them down from the nesting site to a trailer. WBS staff drew blood samples and weighed and measured the chicks. After banding the chicks, Meshach returned them to the nest.

"The chicks appear healthy and very well fed,” said Meshach. "The average number of chicks per nest is below four, so it is fairly rare to have five chicks, especially two years in a row now."

He added that the chicks will continue to grow rapidly. “The two male chicks should be fledging the nest between 40 and 50 days old, on or about June 4,” he said. “The three females will fledge between 50 and 60 days of age, on or about June 15. Since the females are up to a third larger than the males, it takes them longer to develop.”

The leg bands are issued to permitted organizations through the U.S. Geological Survey.

“When the bands are observed, hopefully on healthy peregrines in the wild, they can provide information on migration routes, migration distances and distributions on breeding birds,” Meshach explained. “For instance, the mother of the chicks has a black-over-green band with the letter P within the black and the number 43 within the green. We were able to see the band because of the camera. We now know she was hatched at a power plant in Louisa County, Iowa, in 2005."

Watch a brief video of the banding at youtube.com/watch?v=O1UxDzLh6pc.

The nest can be viewed live from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. (CT) seven days a week on MDC’s website at mdc.mo.gov/node/16934, on Ameren’s website at AmerenMissouri.com/FalconWatch and on the WBS website at worldbirdsanctuary.org.

Considered the world’s fastest animal, peregrine falcons have been clocked diving at 261 mph. For more information on peregrine falcons, visit MDC online at mdc.mo.gov.