If you’ve been keeping an eye out for Tacoma’s resident peregrines, you might’ve noticed their absence last year from their usual spot downtown. Perched high up on the side of the Heritage Bank building at Pacific and 12th (the one with the pyramid on top), Harriett and Murray made a home for themselves and three eyasses (falcon chicks) in 2018.
They nested somewhere else last year but now they’re back and there’s a fancy new webcam to keep an eye on them 24/7. Even better, the chicks just hatched and the next few weeks will be the most exciting time to watch.
We were fortunate enough to join the Falcon Research Group the day they banded Harriett and Murray’s last Tacoma-born chicks and it was an unforgettable experience. The chicks grow incredibly fast once mom and dad start stuffing them full of pigeons. As such, there’s a very small window of time that the conservationists have to get them fitted with leg bands. Leg bands help monitor falcon populations and ensure the birds stay off the endangered species list. You can read more about the history of these birds in Tacoma from the Urban Raptor Conservancy.
Another pair (dubbed Nalley and the Valley Girl) nested near the interchange over Nalley Valley in 2019 and could occasionally be found nabbing sparrows and pigeons out of the sky over the freeway. Other falcons have been seen near The Narrows as well as along Ruston Way. If you’ve ever seen a dead pigeon on a sidewalk with a hole in its chest, it’s a safe bet that a falcon was responsible.
Having falcons in the heart of our city is a special thing and we should not take it for granted. If you’re a drone pilot, please DO NOT fly anywhere near that building, at least through the spring. Not only will the drone stress the birds out and discourage them from nesting here in the future but an adult falcon could easily destroy a little flying robot. It’s happened before and it ain’t worth it for a shot of a cool looking fountain.
The birds are easily visible from street level with a pair of binoculars. Harriett and Murray can often perch on other buildings in the vicinity. So if you don’t see them in the nest box on the south side of the building, take a look around and you might see them nearby. If you’re really lucky, you might just see one grab some lunch right out of the sky at 200 MPH.
Also, if you do go out to watch them while the stay-at-home order is still in effect, remember to maintain social distancing and do not gather in large groups.