ELIZABETH, NJ - Union County residents can now get a birds' eye peek at the Union County Courthouse’s rooftop neighbors through a free link to the county’s first ever “Falcon Cam,” a live stream of all the action in and around the peregrine falcon nest.

Yes, the peregrine falcons, one of only 24 nesting pairs in New Jersey, are back and getting ready to add to their family. The mother falcon laid four eggs earlier this spring that are expected to hatch within days and county residents can watch.

The Falcon Cam live stream, one of only two in New Jersey, includes two cameras. One provides a view of the nest interior that also provides an infrared video image at night. A second lets observers track the falcons’ behavior while perched outside of the nest. An audio feed will also be available later this year.

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“The new Falcon Cam is a wonderful opportunity to observe and study one of nature’s most fierce and fascinating creatures,” said Union County Freeholder Chair Bruce H. Bergen. “It will provide an enriching experience for county residents of all ages, and for online visitors from all over the world.”

By fierce, he means peregrine falcons’ ability to rapidly dive that can approach an astounding 200 miles an hour as they move in on their prey. The falcons have been reverse snow birds since attempting to build a nest on the County Courthouse’s roof in 2005. Windy conditions prevented that, so the next year, county workers installed a repurposed dog house to provide a wind shield, acting on the guidance of wildlife experts with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. A nesting pair has raised chicks in the doghouse every year since then. The same pair occupied the County Courthouse nest from 2006 to 2015. Last year they had four eggs, beating the statewide average of 2.25 young per active nest, and hatched all four to achieve a 100 percent success rate, well above the average rate of 71 percent.

““Peregrine falcons are listed as an endangered species in New Jersey, and Union County has been part of ongoing efforts to ensure the survival of these remarkable birds statewide,” said Freeholder Sergio Granados, who is a member of the Parks and Recreation advisory board. “The new live feed will help build an appreciation for the role that we can all play in preserving our natural heritage, both in our parks and in the urban environment.”

Until recent years, the peregrine falcon population was in steep decline along with other birds of prey due to habitat loss and the pesticide DDT. By 1964, peregrine falcons disappeared completely from New Jersey and all other states east of the Mississippi River. Peregrine falcons were one of the first birds to be the focus of conservation efforts after the 1960’s. In the 1980’s an intensive re-introduction effort began in the tri-state region. Since 2000 the New Jersey population has stabilized at approximately two dozen nesting pairs annually. Of that total, only 16 are known to have made their homes in buildings like the County Courthouse.

Through Union County’s participation in a banding program with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, offspring from the Count Courthouse pair have been observed around the tri-state region, where they have raised chicks of their own. Earlier this year a new female took up residence in the nest. Her leg bands indicate that she was born in a nest located at Throgs Neck Bridge in New York City in 2010.

For more information about peregrine falcons, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish & Wildlife. A link for the new Falcon Cam is located on the County website at ucnj.org/falcon.