A pair of American Eagles tend to their nest atop an 80-foot Sycamore tree at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, days away from the hatching of two eggs, while the courtship season has begun for a female peregrine falcon nesting on the roof of the historic 17-story Union County Courthouse in downtown Elizabeth.
The predators have achieved "rock star" status in classrooms and homes across the state and the country thanks to video cameras that have been installed on trees and within the nests of the birds by wildlife biologists, with live feeds available online.
The link to the Duke Farms "Eagle Cam" is https://dukefarms.org/making-an-impact/eagle-cam/ while the Falcon can be viewed online at ucnj.org/falcon.Falcon Cam.
Two eggs have been sighted in the Eagles' nest, the first on Feb. 20, the second on Feb. 23. It usually takes five weeks for the eggs to hatch, with the birds growing rapidly, ready to fly 10-12 weeks after hatching.
“The Falcon Cam is a great opportunity for residents of all ages to experience and learn about peregrine falcons up close,” said Union County Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski. “This season we have a new female falcon, who has taken over the territory on the roof of the Union County Court House.”
The Falcon Cam chronicles the activity of multiple pairs of peregrine falcons throughout the years. The pairs have been nesting on the roof of the historic tower of the Union County Courthouse, located at 2 Broad Street in midtown Elizabeth.
The pair’s initial attempts at building a nest failed due to exposure to winds and weather conditions atop the 17-story structure. Under the guidance of biologists from the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, County personnel attached a small dome-like shelter to the roof.
The pair adopted it as their own, and they have raised a family within the shelter every year since 2006.
The eagle nest at Duke Farms was discovered by Duke Farms staff in the fall of 2004. In the fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy's 70+ mph winds tore off the upper half of the nest tree, destroying the nest completely. The pair built a new nest 100 feet south of the original site in late December 2012, which is still actively used.
The so-called "Eagle Cam" transmitted the first video in March 2008. In the fall of 2013, the camera was moved to the new nest tree. The camera was struck by lightning shortly before the eaglets fledged in 2015, but a new camera with infrared for night viewing was installed prior to the 2016 nesting season.
The camera is in the nest tree and is positioned to view the nest from above. The camera can be maneuvered remotely to pan, tilt and zoom.
With an assist from Fish & Wildlife biologists, Union County staff installed cameras inside and outside of the Falcon nest.
The cameras at both sites provide schools, researchers and birding enthusiasts with new learning opportunities.
Falcons are fierce predators and they also compete with each other for prime nesting spots. The previous female occupying the nest was identified by her leg band, BA/91.
Earlier this year BA/91 was attacked and injured by an intruding, unbanded female. Alert county staff spotted the stricken BA/91 on the ground outside of the County Administration Building on Elizabethtown Plaza. They stood watch until the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation picked her up.
BA/19 sustained an injury to one of her wings. She was taken to Raptor Trust in Millington, where she is slowly recovering.
Meanwhile, the new female is making herself at home. The Falcon Cam has captured a series of bonding displays between her and her new mate, the resident male.
If the mating is successful, the female will lay up to four eggs this spring.
Peregrine falcons are one of the fastest animals in the world, reaching speeds of up to 220 miles per hour when diving for prey. Their main source of prey includes pigeons and other birds.
They build their nests in cliffs, ledges, and on tall buildings such as the Union County Court House, which happens to be the tallest building in Elizabeth.
Peregrine falcons usually mate and breed in the same territory each year. The male courts the female for about a month beginning around March using aerial displays.
Union County’s falcon preservation efforts have been undertaken with the assistance of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and the nonprofit organization Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
A total of 23 eagle chicks have been raised and fledged from the nest at Duke Farms since 2005.
Duke Farms hosts the eagle camera and the internet connection. The Endangered and Nongame Species Program and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ conduct on-site banding and provide biological consulting and support.
How many eagle nests are in NJ?
In 1973, when the Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act was passed, there was just one nesting pair in a remote forest in Cumberland County. In 2016, there were more than 150 active nests monitored in New Jersey. To learn more about eagle nests in NJ, visit The Division of Fish and Wildlife to read the annual Bald Eagle Report. The state’s eagle population would not be thriving without the efforts of the dedicated eagle volunteers who observe nests, report sightings, and help protect critical habitat.
Conserve Wildlife Foundation is Union County’s official partner for educational programming related to falcons and the Falcon Cam.
For more details about the educational initiative, and for information on corporate sponsorships, call Conserve Wildlife Foundation at 609-984-6012 or use the contact form.