Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Peregrine Falcon Webcams Draw Crowds Online

26.05.2008
Wildlife biologist Glenn Stewart is both pleased and amused at the huge popularity of the webcams he has helped set up to allow people to watch peregrine falcons in action.

This year, the big hit with falcon-watchers has been the webcam at San Jose City Hall and a pair of falcons named Carlos and Clara, who are now raising three healthy chicks in a nest box provided by researchers with the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG) at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"It's a unique opportunity to see a falcon's home life," said Stewart, coordinator of the SCPBRG.

The webcam monitoring the San Jose nest box has averaged 18,000 visits daily since the chicks hatched on April 22. A link to the webcam can be found on the SCPBRG web site at http://www2.ucsc.edu/scpbrg/peregrine_cam.htm.

... more about:
»NEST »SCPBRG »falcon »peregrine

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and his office have been enthusiastic participants in this online reality show, issuing regular press releases with updates on the City Hall falcon family. For weeks the mayor's web site promoted a "Name That Falcon" contest for San Jose kids to name the three chicks. The City of San Jose also provides funding ($45,000 this year) to support SCPBRG's work with the falcons and its outreach programs in local schools.

On May 16, crowds gathered to watch along with the mayor and local media as SCPBRG researcher Brian Latta rappelled down to the nest box from the top of City Hall to place identifying bands on the legs of the chicks. He also determined that two of them were females and the third a male. One egg in the nest failed to hatch.

Stewart has roped in four research interns to help "drive" the webcam in San Jose--remotely operating the camera from their computers--because viewers don't want to miss any of the action going on in the nest box. The camera has spawned an online discussion group with more than 1,700 members; Stewart and other SCPBRG researchers use this group as a venue to answer questions and allay fears, since many of the members could probably rival Carlos and Clara in parental anxiety over the chicks' every move.

For example, many viewers aren't aware that falcon chicks look completely identical, Stewart said. "People will say, ‘The one in the back isn't being fed; you have to do something.' Well, he may have been the one in the front before. Maybe he got really tanked up and wants to sleep now."

While the chicks are certainly cute, viewers aren't spared the grisly sight of hungry falcons feasting on their favorite prey: smaller birds. "They've even seen a parent return with prey that was still alive and twitching," said Jaime Jansen, one of Stewart's interns and a junior majoring in anthropology at UCSC. "But that's real life. People need to expect that not everything is going to be pretty."

In previous years, thousands of viewers watched falcons Sadie and Jimbo raise a family of chicks on top of the Oracle headquarters in Redwood City, and cheered George and Gracie's public courtship on the 33rd floor of the PG&E building in downtown San Francisco.

In fact, people are still grieving over George and Gracie's disappearance, after the falcons were driven away by another pair. "People actually saw the battle taking place in the air between the falcons," Stewart said, "but I guarantee no one would ever have noticed if we hadn't let them get involved through the webcams."

Rather than just gaze at computer screens, many enthusiastic falcon-watchers have purchased binoculars so they can watch the birds outside, or visited other nest sites in the wild, which Stewart finds particularly gratifying.

"There's a guy who goes out to Pier 14 [in San Francisco] every day during his lunch hour to watch the birds," he said. "For a long time, he was watching for George and Gracie to come back. Now he reports to us about the territorial pair nesting on the Bay Bridge."

"For me, it's not about turning people into biologists, but getting them to pay attention to what's going on," Stewart added. "Now they're not just watching peregrines; they're also seeing the coyote, the bobcat. We're talking about a legal secretary, a draftsman, a broker--people who absolutely weren't doing this before."

Peregrine falcons have come a long way since 1970, when there were only two pairs left in California. At that point, DDT and other pesticides had all but driven them to extinction, causing female falcons to produce thin-shelled eggs that cracked under the weight of maternal incubation.

Stewart and colleagues scoured the cliffs in search of the few remaining nests, retrieved the fragile falcon eggs, and brought them back to the safety of special incubators at the SCPBRG research facility. "Dummy" eggs (courtesy of the UCSC Art Department) kept the parents on their nests until the researchers could return the successfully hatched chicks.

For many years, the group also bred peregrine falcons and other birds of prey in a captive-breeding facility on the UCSC campus. They released the captive-bred falcons in a "soft" release process, supplying fresh quail every day until the birds learned to hunt on their own. Although the group no longer operates its own captive-breeding facility, the researchers continue to release falcons raised in captivity into the wild. In fact, they know from the leg bands on Carlos that he is not just any tiercel (male falcon), but a captive-raised bird they released at UCSC's Long Marine Laboratory in 2006.

Today, SCPBRG researchers estimate that there are as many as 233 falcon pairs in the state.

"They've reestablished most of the classic nesting places like Morro Rock; now they're going for tall buildings and bridges," Stewart said. "I've revised my description of peregrines from 'they nest on cliffs' to 'they nest on structures that dominate the landscape.' Morro Rock dominates the landscape the same way San Jose City Hall does. So there's nothing artificial about the birds in San Jose; they're a wild pair of falcons like any others."

Stewart calls himself a cheerleader for every pair of peregrines in California, with no favorites. Others, however, often get very attached to particular birds. For instance, a different male, Jose, was Clara's mate last year, and many people are still wondering why Carlos took his place.

"Things happen, and we can't get sentimental about every bird that's out there," Stewart said. Peregrines usually mate for life, and researchers have observed that, more often than not, they return to the same nests each year. "But if one doesn't show up, another will," he said. "They're not going to not breed."

Stewart conducts education and outreach programs at schools throughout central California, where he talks not only about peregrine recovery efforts, but also about his job as a wildlife biologist.

"I tell them about putting satellite transmitters on bald eagles, and show them pictures of biologists doing work on the Channel Islands," he said. "Pretty soon, they're convinced that it's pretty exciting work if you have a helicopter, a yacht, and a floatplane involved. It gets them away from the stereotype that a scientist is a white-coat guy in a lab with beakers. Some scientists work outside and still accomplish things that, quite honestly, change the world."

Reporters may contact Glenn Stewart at (831) 459-2466 or gstewart@ucsc.edu.

Alissa Poh | newswise
Further information:
http://www.ucsc.edu

Further reports about: NEST SCPBRG falcon peregrine

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>