Courtship Returns For Harrisburg Falcons And Their Online Fans

Feb 12, 2016

Harrisburg's happy ornithological two-some are back in the nest this week, just in time for Valentine's Day. 

State Department of Environmental Protection officials announced the return of a pair of peregrine falcons to their nest on the 15th floor ledge of the Rachel Carson State Office Building with redesigned falcon website on Friday.

Officials extended the Harrisburg falcon live feed to broadcast year-round. Previously, the camera focused in only during mating season when the Capitol lovebirds were most likely to conceive and hatch new chicks.
Credit Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

The site feeds live, high-definition video from three cameras surrounding the nest that spokeswoman Susan Rickens said will be streamed year-round. 

Like humans, Rickens said in a release that Valentine’s Day is "typically the time when the falcons renew their courtship behavior." The male offers food to the female and puts on "a spectacular display of flight and hunting skills, all to impress her and prove his ability to be a good provider."

There is often vocal interaction at the nest, she said.

“Providing a live feed of the peregrine falcons has helped to teach a generation of Pennsylvania school students and the public about the connection between wildlife and our environment,” DEP Secretary John Quigley said. “It underscores the effects we humans have on the natural world and how we can all be better stewards.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection wished followers a Happy Falcontine's Day via social media on Friday.
Credit Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

The redesign encourages fans to upload their own wildlife photos to the falcons' InstagramTwitter and Flickr pages using the hashtag #HbgFalcons, or share a falcon valentine on Twitter. 

According to DEP trackers, the 13-year-old male falcon has occupied the nest site at the Rachel Carson State Office Building for the past 11 years.

"This is considered old for a wild peregrine, so at some point, a new male may challenge him for the nest site," Rickens said.

The 7-year-old female is entering her fourth year at the nest site.

If their courtship is successful, Rickens said the first of several eggs should arrive around mid-March. The first egg of 2015 arrived March 16. Since 2000, 58 of the 69 eggs produced at the nest have hatched. Thirty-four were females, and 23 were males. (In 2008, the sex of one of the young falcons could not be determined.) The eggs typically hatch in mid-May and the young falcons take their first flights in June.

“This nest site in Harrisburg is one of the most productive ones in the state and its success is due in large part to our online community,” Quigley said.

Quigley credited volunteers for helping protect the birds as they’re learning to fly.

To join their ranks, find more information on the falcons' history in Harrisburg, view a calendar of seasonal activities or link to other bird cams around the state, visit dep.state.pa.us/dep/falcon.