ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Like swallows returning to Capistrano, a pair of peregrine falcons has returned to a nesting box at Ameren Missouri's Sioux Energy Center in St. Louis. Ameren Missouri, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), are once again providing the public with an online “FalconCam” for a bird’s-eye view of peregrine falcons raising their chicks.
The FalconCam is live for viewing from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. (CDT) seven days a week. The nest can be viewed 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.
MDC and WBS experts will offer ongoing website commentary on what’s happening in the nest. The FalconCam will be available until nesting activity is complete and the mother’s young have left the nest.
Ameren staff installed the webcam at the nest site in January 2012. Peregrine falcons have been seen at Sioux Energy center since early 2011, with this year’s nesting activities first spotted in the beginning of February.
According to WBS Director Jeff Meshach, the female laid her first egg this year today (March 19). Last year, she laid a total of five eggs. All five chicks survived. She is expected to lay a total clutch of four to five eggs this year. Once the last egg is laid, the chicks will hatch in about 30 days. The male falcon will bring food to the female and take his turns incubating the eggs so the female can feed and preen her feathers.
Employees at the Sioux Energy Center named the female Siouxzee when she first appeared at the nesting box two years ago.
This year, viewers are invited to name the male peregrine falcon. Researchers at WBS and MDC studied the band attached to the leg of the male and determined he was born at Labadie Energy Center in 2004. Contest rules are available at WorldBirdSanctuary.org. Besides bragging rights, the winner of the contest to name the male will become an adopt-a-bird parent to Sirrocco, a male peregrine falcon that makes its home at the World Bird Sanctuary.
“Our cooperative FalconCam will help Missourians discover nature right in the nest of these amazing raptors,” said MDC Director Bob Ziehmer. “The project illustrates the power of partnerships between private and public sector organizations to help conserve native wildlife.”
Ziehmer added that the Department of Conservation’s Discover Nature Schools program for Missouri students in grades K-12 is providing FalconCam educational materials to the more than 800 schools and 153,000 students involved. The program is in sixty percent of Missouri school districts and promotes hands-on experiences in nature to help students become life-long conservationists. FalconCam offerings include fact sheets, classroom activities, and lesson plans to help Missouri students monitor FalconCam activities. Activities and lesson plans for grades K–2, 3–5, 6–8 and 9–12 were developed in partnership with the World Bird Sanctuary. Get more information online at mdc.mo.gov/node/20703.
The FalconCam is also helping Ameren Missouri promote conservation.
“The peregrine falcon project continues to be one of the most important projects we have worked on with the World Bird Sanctuary to help preserve the biological diversity of the world around us,” Michael Moehn, Ameren Missouri senior vice president, Customer Operations, said. “It’s part of our ongoing commitment to being responsible stewards of the environment.”
Ameren Missouri and WBS work together to provide a suitable habitat for songbirds. Nesting boxes have been attached to Ameren Missouri transmission towers and the company has spent more than $300,000 to install nesting boxes, monitor the nests and band the babies.
Meshach of WBS added that the peregrine falcon has made an incredible comeback from the brink of extinction.
“What we will see at Ameren’s Sioux Energy Center nest box is the fruit of tens of thousands of hours of labor to make the peregrine falcon a common sight again,” Meshach said. “There is always something to learn about any of our world's birds and animals. Our camera will provide a window into the nesting life of the world's fastest creature.”
A WBS reintroduction program in the 1980s and early 1990s has placed more than 80 captive-hatched peregrines back into Missouri's wild, and WBS continues to band chicks produced by up to six pairs of wild peregrine falcon parents in the greater St. Louis area each year.
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.