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Peregrine Falcon Nest Cam

Welcome to the 2023 Season of the National Aviary’s Peregrine Falcon Nest Cam Presented by The Birdwatchers Store!

Each spring and summer, the National Aviary hosts a live stream of the Peregrine Falcons residing high up on the southeast side of the Cathedral of Learning on the main campus of the University of Pittsburgh. From there the falcons can access Schenley Park and the Monongahela River to the south. Morela, a female Peregrine Falcon, and her mate, Ecco, had a successful nesting season in 2022. Watch along in 2023 as the pair returns to the Cathedral of Learning to court, nest, and raise their young.

This camera offers a window into a wild Peregrine Falcon nest. Content may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Note: This live streaming camera will automatically time out. Please refresh to continue watching.

2023 Nesting Season Updates

March 15, 2023: If you’ve noticed Morela looking a little lethargic lately, it might be because egg-laying is right around the corner. Around five days before they begin laying, females are not as active: they aren’t preening themselves as often or moving around stones in the nest scrape, and they spend a good deal of time sitting on or near the scrape. Basically, they look like they’re just waiting for something to happen!

You might notice a change in Morela’s posture, too. These days, she is looking noticeably bottom-heavy, and the feathers under her tail are fluffed out. She will lay one egg every 48 hours up to the penultimate, or next-to-last egg (a Peregrine Falcon clutch usually has four eggs). The period between the next-to-last and last egg often is a bit longer, up to 72 hours, and only Morela will know when it’s time to start incubating.

She won’t begin until the second-to-last egg is laid. Ecco will assist with incubation, freeing up Morela to hunt, but expect to see her on the nest more often than Ecco: females spend about twice as long incubating the eggs compared to males. They’ll take turns incubating for 33-35 days before hatching—and the real fun of raising chicks!—begins.

February 27, 2023: The first few weeks of the Peregrine Falcon nest cam season can be pretty quiet, but don’t expect that to last long! As we get closer to nesting time, Morela and Ecco are visiting the nest box more often and staying longer. You may catch them together on camera perching on the nest’s ledge or in the nest itself (also called a “scrape”) as they bow towards each other. These behaviors are part of their courtship and help strengthen their pair bond. It’s easy to tell Morela and Ecco apart when they’re side by side: Morela is noticeably larger than her mate, a common characteristic of many raptor species.  

This is the third year Morela and Ecco will be nesting at the Cathedral of Learning. Together they have fledged seven young (4 in 2021, and 3 in 2022). If this nesting season is anything like previous years, we can expect Morela to lay her first egg sometime around St. Patrick’s Day. Until then, watch for Morela and Ecco’s visits to the nest for a chance to observe their courtship behaviors!

For more news about all of Pittsburgh’s Peregrine Falcons, visit Outside My Window, Kate St. John’s Bird Blog.

The History of Peregrines at Pitt

2002 – Spring 2015:  The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh has hosted a pair of Peregrine Falcons since 2002, when “Dorothy” began nesting here with a tiercel (male falcon) named “Erie.” In the fall of 2007, after Erie disappeared, another male (“Erie II”, or “E2”) took over. Dorothy fledged a total of 43 chicks, 22 with Erie and another 21 with E2. She disappeared in the fall of 2015 at age 16, which is very old for a Peregrine Falcon.

Fall 2015 –2019: In November 2015 a new female, “Hope,” arrived at the Cathedral of Learning from her former nest site at the Tarentum Bridge (about 12 miles away) where she had fledged at least four young. Hope’s initial mate was E2, succeeded by “Terzo” when E2 died in March 2016. Hope nested at the Cathedral of Learning for four seasons, 2016 through 2019, during which time she displayed aggression toward her chicks. Hope’s behavior was very unusual. She raised 8 offspring to fledging age, out of 16 total hatchings. We, and the experts we have consulted, have no explanation for Hope’s highly unusual behavior.

Fall 2019 – present:  In September 2019 a new unbanded female Peregrine arrived at the Cathedral of Learning, named Morela (Polish for “apricot”) for the distinctive apricot-colored wash on her chest and face that makes her recognizable on camera. Because she is unbanded, we don’t know where she came from. Morela and Ecco raised their first clutch, fledging four chicks in 2021, and another four in 2022.

Many thanks to our partners:  University of Pittsburgh, M&P Security Solutions, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

More About Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine Falcons are the world’s fastest animal, diving at speeds of over 200 miles per hour! These fierce birds of prey grow quickly, too. Peregrine Falcons nest on cliffs or ledges of tall buildings (like University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning) where they lay a group of 2 to 5 eggs (called a “clutch”), in a bowl-shaped depression in gravel.

The female Peregrine incubates the eggs for about a month, sitting on them to keep them warm, and when the chicks hatch, they are small, nearly featherless, and very dependent on their parents. But, they mature very quickly, and within a week of hatching they nearly double their size! Within a month, they go from having soft, downy white feathers to dark brown feathers, or plumage. By around 5 weeks old, they are ready to fledge the nest! Peregrine Falcons stay with their parents through the beginning of summer, learning to hunt and navigate their world.

The next time you are out on a walk, look for Peregrine Falcons on the ledges of tall buildings or under the bridges along Pittsburgh’s three rivers!

Questions about Peregrine Falcons and other wild birds? Contact wildbird.questions@aviary.org

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