Peregrine falcons mate for life, but if one of the mates dies, it gets replaced right away. They are able to reproduce starting at one to three years old. Male Peregrine Falcons bring females food during the courting and nesting season. By early March the adult pair has chosen its nest for the season. Between three and five eggs are laid around the beginning of April; the chicks hatch in early May after a month-long incubation.
After the chicks hatch, both the male and female provide food for them. The adult falcon uses its beak to rip up small pieces of meat and delicately pass them to the nestlings. When they hatch, the chicks are covered with fluffy white down and have very large feet in proportion to their bodies. But in just five or six weeks, the falcons are fully feathered and ready to fly. The chicks fledge (leave the nest) at about 7 weeks of age in mid-June and become independent of their parents by the beginning of August.
To date, the Fox Hall falcons have successfully raised a total of 15 chicks—12 on campus, and, prior to that, three in an abandoned mill building in downtown Lowell.
Intended for the control of agricultural insect pests, DDT traveled the food chain from insects through song birds to Peregrine Falcons, where it became concentrated. The most significant impact to the falcons was that they laid thin-shelled eggs that broke under the weight of incubation, leaving no young to replace the adults when they eventually died. By 1966, not a single nesting pair remained in the eastern United States.
DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972 and young falcons were released on the roof of the McCormack Post Office and Court House Building in downtown Boston in 1984 and 1985. The Peregrine Falcon population began to grow, and in 1999, it was officially removed from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species. However, it is still on the Massachusetts state endangered list. It is illegal to harass, hunt, capture or harm them in any way.
There are now 22 pairs of Peregrine Falcons in Massachusetts, including UMass Lowell’s own pair on Fox Hall.