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Falcons Hatch Chicks Atop Fox Hall

Baby Falcons Are All Thriving

UMass Lowell Image
Thomas French of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife puts identification tags on the legs of one of the falcon chicks as fellow DFW staff member Anne Gagnon holds the chick.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Fox Hall’s resident pair of peregrine falcons successfully hatched three chicks this spring. The raptors used a gravel-filled wooden box on the roof of the 18-story building on East Campus as a nest.

On May 31, a team from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) checked on the status of the chicks and placed metal identification bands around their legs. As expected, the chicks’ protective parents took turns swooping down and attacking the team with their sharp talons as the team retrieved the youngsters from the nest box. Check out video of the banding.

“The parents originally had five eggs, but two of them failed to develop,” says state biologist Thomas French of the DFW field headquarters in Westboro. “The surviving chicks are now 3 weeks old and they all look healthy.”

French, who determined the brood to consist of two females and one male, says they will soon shed their white, fluffy down feathers and be ready to fledge (take flight and leave the nest) by late June or early July to hunt on their own.

Fastest Birds in the World

Peregrine falcons (scientific name "Falco peregrinus") are the fastest birds on Earth, capable of diving from great heights at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. These raptors tend to nest on rocky cliffs as well as on tall buildings and structures in heavily urbanized areas. 

The Commonwealth considers peregrine falcons as “endangered,” so it’s illegal to harass, hunt, capture or harm them in any way. The widespread use of pesticides, especially DDT, in the 1950s and ’60s nearly wiped out the falcon population in the eastern United States. Thanks to strict regulations and conservation measures, the birds are making a comeback.

The DFW team collected carcasses of the Fox Hall falcons’ recent meals — mainly homing pigeons, chimney swifts, parakeets and even a parrot — for study back in the lab. French also took some samples of the chicks’ down feathers to test for trace levels of mercury.

You can monitor the falcons and their nest 24/7 via two webcams — one installed on the roof of Fox Hall and the other placed inside the box. Go to