Inside the key lives of Hoover Tower’s peregrine falcons

Since at the very least 2011, peregrine falcons — the quickest animals on the planet — have referred to as Stanford dwelling, in keeping with Stanford Conservation Program Coordinator Katie Preston. But, regardless of residing in Hoover Tower, biologists have but to look at a profitable nesting season for the commonly urban-tolerant birds.

The peregrines at Hoover Tower have been noticed as lately as Could 26, in keeping with Preston. Nonetheless, little is thought concerning the explicit pair of birds that dwell at Stanford. 

“The pair that presently reside on campus are usually not banded, a standard technique used to establish and observe wild birds with a numbered band, so we have no idea something about the place they had been born or how previous they’re,” Preston wrote.

Hoover Tower on a sunny day
The peregrine falcon nest bins might be seen to the left of the right-most spire, beneath the statement deck of Hoover Tower. Photograph courtesy of Katie Preston.

Throughout the bay, one other nesting pair of peregrine falcons, Annie and Grinnell, famously reside in UC Berkeley. Viewers can observe the lives of the falcons by way of a sequence of webcams on the positioning CalFalcons. 

When requested if Stanford has plans to put in a webcam, Preston wrote, “We should not have any plans for a webcam for the Falcons at the moment. Sadly, because of the places that they’ve chosen to construct their nests and their publicity to the weather, our birds expertise common nest failure.”

To fight this, Stanford put in nest bins on Hoover Tower final 12 months, in keeping with Maya Xu ’25, who works in Rodolfo Dirzo’s lab finding out the food regimen of the falcons. Dirzo is a Stanford professor of earth system science and biology and a senior fellow on the Woods Institute for the Setting. 

In keeping with Xu, the 2 nest bins are situated slightly below the statement deck of Hoover Tower, positioned reverse one another. “The one technique to get these nest bins put in correctly was to go there with a crane. It’s important to have an industrial crane with the intention to try this,” Xu mentioned.

Nevertheless, Xu famous the falcons are inclined to desire laying their eggs greater up within the gutter.  “When the eggs are there, they type of roll round and so they get actually cracked, and the falcon chicks are usually not capable of hatch,” Xu defined.

A wooden box with one open side to fit a falcon nest
The peregrine falcon nest bins had been put in on Hoover Tower in 2021 however have but for use by the falcons, in keeping with Preston. Photograph courtesy of Katie Preston.

Xu speculated that Stanford might not be probably the most optimum dwelling for the falcons due to the noise on campus. “​​Some members of the chook watching membership [have] theories that possibly all the development that’s been occurring round Hoover Tower might be a little bit bit disturbing for them,” Xu mentioned.

In keeping with Xu, the nest bins are positioned primarily based on observability for scientists, not essentially the perfect place for falcons. She defined that the proximity to the statement deck means the bins are disturbed by people and never optimum for elevating their younger. 

“They’re city tolerant as much as a sure level,” Xu mentioned, “Like most birds, in the event that they’re going to have a bunch of individuals speaking lots and making quite a lot of disturbance close to their nest, then they’re going to really feel a little bit uncomfortable.”

In keeping with Xu, being generalists permits for peregrine falcons to be “city tolerant.” The birds feed on quite a lot of small birds however will typically additionally eat bats or voles. 

Holding pesticides or different anthropogenic chemical substances at a secure degree on campus is vital to additional supporting the peregrine falcon inhabitants, in keeping with Xu. “The unique motive that peregrine falcons grew to become weak to extinction was due to excessive ranges of DDT — which collected up the meals chain to them — weakening their eggshells.” 

Drones are one other concern. “The CalFalcons crew could be very strict about having no drones anyplace close to the Berkeley Campanile to guard their falcons, and I’ve observed individuals flying them close to Meyer Inexperienced, which is fairly near the Hoover Tower,” Xu mentioned.

Peregrine falcons haven’t simply captured the eye of biologists. Noah Cowan, M.S. ’23 and an incoming statistics Ph.D. scholar, spoke about why he follows the CalFalcons and has lately turn into fascinated by Stanford’s personal falcons, “It’s each one thing that I’m ready to try this’s very easy — I do know is true there – and can provide me a little bit little bit of peace and quiet when seeing them.”

“There’s one thing about watching these very ferocious animals when they’re of their cute, fluffy, little downy state,” Cowan added.

To Cowan, peregrine falcons are additionally a supply of inspiration. “Airplane engines are modeled after peregrine falcon noses…Their noses are specifically designed, such that the air is correctly diverted away from their like physique in order that they’re capable of journey at hilariously excessive speeds with none type of helmet,” he mentioned. 

Xu echoed an analogous thought, “I believe the perfect factor that we will in all probability do at this level…might be simply to lift extra consciousness about them — that we do have these superb birds dwelling with us and coexisting with us.”