Meet The River Hawks

Nest Cam

You are watching recordings of a live video stream from atop Fox Hall at UMass Lowell where a pair of Peregrine Falcons lay eggs every spring. 

Attention: teachers, students, parents and friends! Did you or someone you know use the falcons as a teaching tool in the classroom? We'd love to hear about it, please email and let us know.

UPDATE: Nest Cams to Sign Off Aug. 31

Merri’s three juveniles are now spending all of their time outside the nest, exploring their surroundings. They’ve been spotted on North Campus, in downtown Lowell and elsewhere, though they still return occasionally to the roof of Fox Hall to roost and to feed.

In the meantime, it looks like Merri has found herself a young male falcon as a possible new mate. The courtship seems to be going well.
Effective Aug. 31, the university’s interior and exterior nest cameras will be turned off for the year. We would like to thank the thousands of people from across the country who have been following the lives of Merri and her family since spring. We hope you will join us again next year, when Merri returns with her new mate to start a new family!

Merri’s offspring were photographed on July 22 by Prof. Cliff Bruell in Civil Engineering, perched on a tree along the banks of the Merrimack River.
Imelda Joson used binoculars and her cell phone camera to capture this view on Aug. 11, showing Merri resting in front of the nest box with her new “boyfriend” watching from below.

July 14: Merri Fights Off Intruders; Her Offspring Are Now Flying!

Merri, the mother falcon, was spotted in early July in the company of a possible “floater,” a young unmated male. On July 6, a male falcon was found badly injured a couple of miles from campus, with a gash on his side that looked to be the result of a struggle with another raptor. Chances are, this was the same floater previously seen with Merri. (Based on his I.D. tag, the floater was banded in Lawrence in 2010.) Merri herself was observed trying to defend the nest site from a pair of adult peregrines that intruded into the area.

Volunteers David and Ursula Goodine rescued the floater and turned him over to the state’s Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW), which brought him to a wildlife clinic in Grafton. The floater is now recovering and is expected to be released back into the wild in three to four weeks.

Merri’s lone male chick was last spotted on the night of July 4, during the height of the storm, perched on top of a staircase at Fox Hall. He has not been seen since.

The three remaining females are now spending most of their time on the roof and antenna tower of Fox Hall and on top of nearby buildings. Each day their flying skills continue to improve, and Merri is now teaching them how to hunt so they can survive on their own. The siblings are expected to remain in the area during summer before flying off to find their own mates and territories.

There’s still no word from DFW as to when the necropsy on Mack, the falcon dad, will be performed.

Merri was being harassed by a mockingbird when this photo was taken in early July.
Photo courtesy Joson Images.

July 2: Chicks getting closer to leaving nest

As the chicks have gotten older and bigger, they have been venturing farther from the nest box. Soon, they will fledge and leave the box for good.

If you don’t see them right away, please do not call authorities on campus. Most likely, our young falcons are momentarily out of camera range.

We will continue to post updates here as well as on Facebook and Twitter if something noteworthy happens. A dedicated group of staff and volunteers are monitoring the falcon chicks around the clock and alerting the appropriate authorities when necessary.

Any questions or concerns should be directed to Again, please do not call the UMass Lowell Police Department or other emergency services.

Thank you for your cooperation.

July 1: Female Chick Rescued After Falling from the Nest

chick2-post-fall-bus-stopAt 6:08 p.m. on June 30, a strong gust of wind knocked one of the female chicks off the rooftop of Fox Hall, sending her tumbling to the ground. Edwin Aguirre of the Office of University Relations and his wife, Imelda Joson, saw what had happened and immediately alerted the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW). This is the second time in as many days that a chick had fallen from the nest.

The chick, which landed across the street from Fox Hall in front of a bus stop, very close to vehicular traffic, appeared unharmed. Authorities later joined Aguirre and Joson in securing the area to prevent the chick from venturing into the roadway. Anne Gagnon of DFW, who was delivering fresh quail meat for the chicks, arrived a few minutes later. She quickly captured the baby falcon, checked her condition (she’s OK) and brought her back to the 18th floor so she can rejoin her mother, Merri, and her siblings.

Only two of the chicks are visible in the camera most of the time today; the rest are roaming around the rooftop of Fox Hall, beyond the cameras’ view. In just a few more days, the chicks will be ready to fledge (leave the nest) and learn how to hunt on their own.

June 30: Male Chick Survives Fall from the Nest

fallen-chick-planter.jpgOn June 29, at approximately 7:30 p.m., the male falcon chick lost his balance on the perch and fell 18 stories to the ground. He was found alive and well, running across the lawn in front of the building. Authorities who were keeping a good distance from the frightened chick, made sure he didn't stray into the road, where he could get run over by a car.

Anne Gagnon of the state’s Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW), who has been delivering quail meat to the nest, was able to catch the chick and gave him a quick examination. She said he was OK — no visible signs of injuries, no broken wing or leg. (Apparently, the chick has enough feathers to enable him to flap his wings and break his fall.)

fallen-chick-elevator.jpgThe chick was then taken by elevator to the 18th floor, where he was released onto the roof of Fox Hall, and that’s where he’s been holed up since then. So you can only see his three sisters right now in the nest cam. Hopefully, he’ll be able to hop back onto the ledge and rejoin his siblings. Gagnon says the mom, Merri, should be able to find him and continue feeding him.

Tom French of DFW says chicks fall off the nest fairly often. Many of them survive the fall without any serious injuries. If they do get injured, they are taken to the Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University for treatment and rehabilitation. The worst thing that can happen is that a chick falls to the ground and gets run over by a car or, in one case in Boston, by a bicyclist!

Gagnon will deliver another round of quail meat in the afternoon of June 30 and she will check on how the male is doing. We’ll keep you posted!

June 20: Chicks Get Supplemental Food

In an effort to assure the survival of the falcon chicks, starting June 20, 2014 a staff member from the state’s Division of Fisheries & Wildlife began bringing some fresh meat (quail) to the nest to supplement the chicks’ diet. Ever since Mack, the father falcon dad died on June 7, Merri, the mother falcon, has been doing all the hunting and feeding by herself. State scientists are concerned that the chicks are not getting enough food to sustain their growing bodies and keep them hydrated. The supplement will be given every other day, until such time Merri and her babies are able to fend for themselves.

June 16: Banding a Success

A team from the State's Division of Fisheries & Wildlife banded the falcon chicks on the morning of June 16, 2014. A photo gallery of the banding can be found on the UMass Lowell Facebook page.

 For more Falcon videos please visit our video page and the UMass Lowell YouTube Channel.

June 9: Mack, the Male Peregrine, has Died

University Mourns Loss of Adopted River Hawk

Mack was found on the ground near Fox Hall Saturday afternoon and identified by a band he wore. He leaves behind Merri and several offspring, including four chicks, hatched May 25-27.

The state’s wildlife office is investigating the cause of death.

Mack and Merri paired up in 2005, according to veteran falcon watchers Ursula and Dave Goodine, who followed the couple and their chicks over the years. 

State fish and wildlife scientists have told the university that Merri will be able to hunt and feed her brood even without her mate. It is possible that an unmated male peregrine could enter the area, which may disrupt the young family. 

Scientists will continue to monitor the nest and chicks to see how Merri reacts to this loss and to note any changes in the family. 

UMass Lowell remains committed to the welfare of its adopted falcons and will work closely with state conservationists to ensure a healthy and safe environment for these wild animals to live in. We will provide any additional information as soon as it is available regarding the death and how the family is responding. 

Meet The River Hawks

MeetNamingThey've occupied the penthouse suite at Fox Hall since 2007, or possibly earlier. They don’t take classes, they don’t teach, they don’t do research. They are the pair of peregrine falcons—one of only 22 pairs in the state—and they call UMass Lowell’s East Campus home. 

Since discovering them while attempting to hang a banner from the roof of Fox Hall, the University has enthusiastically supported them, working with the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. We have installed a box for their nesting, helped the state tag and track the chicks and have installed webcams to monitor their activities.

Whirlwind Year

This year, it has been a lightning-fast series of events, even by the standards of the world’ fastest animal.

The falcons, Merri and Mack, became parents again. Four times. The couple’s four eggs all hatched between May 25 and 27. Watch the hatching on our video page.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, the new arrivals came into the world just days after Merri and Mack became grandparents. One of the chicks they hatched atop Fox Hall in 2010 hatched three of her own chicks in a Rhode Island nest last week, according to veteran falcon watchers David and Ursula Goodine.You can watch the Lowell-based fluffy white chicks go about their daily routine live via the above video stream.

Adopting The River Hawks

The University wanted to make the relationships official and “adopt” the family. While peregrine falcons are not exactly the same thing as River Hawks—a mythical bird the University created as mascot back in 1994—they are close enough “cousins” that bringing the falcons into the campus family seems quite natural and right. Plus, historically they were known as Duck Hawks in North America.

Why Did We Do This?

Why did we adopt these birds into our River Hawk family? Because it was time to close the circle and bring them into the fold the right way.

falcon-in-flight-opt.jpgIn the beginning, they chose us. The peregrine falcons nested 18 stories up, atop Fox Hall. We first spotted them in 2007. It happened quite by surprise, when a maintenance worker atop the roof found himself intimidated by the swooping, protective birds. They stayed. 

They adopted us first.

While some educational institutions have stumbled in their efforts to adopt mascots, we are proud to be working with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to ensure this is done with respect.

We had invited students to name them. There are cameras in their new home so folks can check in on them and learn about them. No silly suits, no cages, no leashes. In adopting them as River Hawks, we simply let them live their lives up on the campus’ highest perch. 

Protection and Respect

Falcon safety and respect come first. We won’t be dressing them in silly clothes (as if we could get that close!) or compromising their freedom, food sources or nest. We will continue to work with Fisheries and Wildlife to monitor them and, in fact, will increase educational and awareness program about the River Hawks.

Special Thanks

A special thank you to Mercier Electric & Communications, Inc. for sponsoring and installing the nest camera.