Wayne State Peregrine Falcons wrap up a record (and dramatic) season

Wayne State's resident Peregrine Falcons provide entertainment, wonder and a healthy dose of drama for falcon cam viewers across the globe every year. The 2022 nesting season was no exception.

This year viewers and Wayne State biologists celebrated the falcons' first 100% hatch rate. Peregrine parents Aura and Regal laid, incubated and successfully hatched four eggs - a first since Wayne State's falcon cam was installed in 2019. The webcam, located near the nest site on Old Main's clocktower, allows researchers and the public alike to monitor the fascinating birds of prey 24 hours a day.

WSU Planetarium and Grosscup Museum Director Megan McCullen is an ardent falcon fan and regularly checks in on the live stream. "I like to keep the cam open in the background while I'm working," she said. "I open the feed whenever I hear a commotion."

However, McCullen says the birds have become more than just entertainment. "The falcon cam has made me significantly more aware of urban ecology and our local wildlife."

Peregrine pandemonium

While the hatch rate was a success, WSU falcon fans can attest that the remainder of the nesting season was a bit of a rollercoaster.

On June 7, two of the four chicks fledged the nest prematurely. The first was rescued by a valiant team of WSU employees and safely transferred to a local raptor rehabilitation facility. Unfortunately, the second chick to fledge succumbed to injuries after it was struck by a car on Warren Avenue. Biologists are exploring taxidermy to preserve the bird and possibly use it for educational purposes through Wayne State's Natural History Museum.

The fledging phase may have had a rough start, but it's not all grim news. The remaining chicks successfully flew the coop and have been spotted hunting together throughout Midtown Detroit.

According to Danielle Durham, peregrine falcon coordinator for the Michigan DNR, the chicks will disperse or migrate toward the end of the summer. "Fledglings will stay with their parents for a few months after leaving the nest to learn how to hunt."

Since inhabiting the Old Main nest site in 2020, Aura and Regal have produced 10 chicks - officially called "eyases." According to the color-coded ID bands placed on their legs when they were chicks, Aura hatched in Toledo, Ohio and Regal in Warren, Michigan.

Coming full circle, Regal's home nest also has a live stream and he hatched on camera in 2018.

Prior to Aura and Regal, the Old Main nest was home to peregrines Isabella and Freedom. It's difficult to speculate the exact reason for the shift, but WSU biologists believe a turf war ensued and the current pair won over the nesting site.

Empty nesters

While many falcons will migrate south for the winter, Aura and Regal have historically stuck around their home turf for the season. Peregrines typically dine on other birds and even in winter "there's no shortage of pigeons in Detroit," according to Durham.

Regardless of where they spend their winter, Aura and Regal will once again start the courting process in January. Viewers can watch the action live at go.wayne.edu/falcons and follow the pair's ongoing antics on Instagram at @WSUFalcons.

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