Live viewing – Kansas City’s peregrine falcons

Photo courtesy MIssouri Department of Conservation.

The world’s fastest creatures can now be seen anytime at their home on a 30-story Downtown office tower.

A 24-hour camera for the first time shows a pair of nesting peregrine falcons at the Commerce Tower, 911 Main St.

This is the third year for this female on this nest, but it is not known if her four small, brown eggs are viable after last week’s frost, said Joe DeBold, urban wildlife biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

More than 30 young falcons have flown away from that nest since the effort started in 1991, but eggs have failed and a storm once killed chicks.

The nest is now one of five in Kansas City. It and one at an undisclosed site near the Plaza are the only ones monitored by cameras.

The urban falcon nests are like those in many cities. They helped bring the birds back from the brink of extinction after the DDT pesticide crisis, but the falcons remain endangered in Missouri.

“We’re not quite there yet but we’re taking good steps in the right direction,” DeBold said.

Besides the Plaza and Commerce sites, three other nests are on smokestacks at Kansas City Power & Light generating plants.

The buildings are substitutes for nesting places on ledges in river bluffs, and the city birds dine on Downtown pigeons and hunt prey along the Missouri River.
DeBold said, “I’m positive we have other nests here but it will take time for the public to report them.”

Right before hatched birds get old enough to fly, DeBold goes up and puts monitoring bands on as many as he can.
That upsets the parents and chicks, and the falcons have notched beaks used to sever the spinal columns of prey.

“They get a little testy,” DeBold said of the banding, “but you have to understand how to do it correctly.”

It all began with 24 young falcons released at Commerce Tower in the summers of 1991 and 1992. Nine are known to be dead and others nested elsewhere, some in other cities.

But at least one bird released in St. Louis nested here.

Of those first birds known dead, some collided with glass windows or buildings and one flew into a giant fan. The crow-sized birds dive on prey at over 200 miles an hour and are at risk like racecar drivers.

“When you have the fastest wildlife species in the world, there’s going to be wrecks, there’s going to be accidents,” DeBold said.

It is always uncertain how nature’s risks, including the late frost, will impact the birds and their eggs at Commerce Tower, he said.

“It’s their own story.”

And you can watch it unfold.

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