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Urban Legends Exposed: City-Dwelling Peregrine Falcons Offer a “Rare Wildlife Reality Show” in Union County

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Peregrine falcon at home on the roof of the Union County Courthouse Tower. Credits: Union County
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UNION COUNTY, NJ – The eyes of the world will be focused on the roof of the historic 17-story Union County Courthouse Tower on Broad Street, watching a pair of rare peregrine falcons that have made their nest there, thanks to a new partnership between the Union County Freeholder Board and the nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Those eyes will belong to students, scientists and other wildlife enthusiasts all over the world who will have more opportunities to study the peregrine falcons who have been nesting on the Courthouse Tower every year since 2006. In 2016, Union County began offering a free livestream “Falcon Cam” after installing two cameras inside and outside of the nest. This winter a third camera has been added to provide a scenic view, and audio will be available later this year.

“This year our Falcon Cam will become a new collaborative effort between the County and Conserve Wildlife, with assistance from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen. “This partnership makes Union County a premier site for falcon observation and research in New Jersey. The result is a truly enriching experience that brings the message of environmental stewardship throughout Union County and beyond.”

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The two current occupants of the nest have spent the winter “pair bonding.” Bird watchers who can catch sight of the two falcons meeting at the nest, bowing to each other and communicating with gentle sounds called “ee-chupping.”  

“While peregrine falcons were completely gone east of the Mississippi River just a few decades ago, this magnificent bird – the fastest animal in the world – has recovered dramatically in recent years,” said Conserve Wildlife Foundation executive director David Wheeler. “Thanks to Union County, students and New Jerseyans of all ages can enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at this rare wildlife reality show unfolding near tens of thousands of people in downtown Elizabeth.” 

In winter the prime time for viewing is early morning. Activity also tends to occur mid-afternoon. If the pair breeds, the nest will be occupied almost constantly until the chicks fledge.

 “Peregrine falcons prefer to nest in a high spot on the face of a cliff where they can forage for prey, and apparently the Courthouse Tower fits the bill,” Bergen explained. “It is the tallest building in Union County.”

The free Falcon Cam livestream is available on the Union County website at ucnj.org/falcon.

Union County has also provided a link to the Falcon Cam on the Conserve Wildlife website, conservewildlifenj.org.  Conserve Wildlife Foundation is also offering individual and corporate sponsorships of public outreach and environmental education in Union County centered on the Falcon Cam. CWF seeks to provide educational programs, lesson plans, curriculum development, and educational field trips for schools within Union County. For more information about Conserve Wildlife's individual and corporate sponsorships, call 609-984-6012 or use the online form at ConserveWildlifeNJ.org.

For quick links to all Union County programs related to conservation and sustainability, visit ucnj.org/green-connection.  

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