UC Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group Program
Falcon nest cameras and discussion groups are a compelling gateway activity where people can gain an appreciation of nature. Together, the nest cameras and discussion groups provide entertainment, wonder, and learning, about nature through an intimate look at iconic birds. They also put wildlife in the headlines stimulating interest community-wide. The discussion group is moderated by a university professor who is also an experienced field biologist specializing in birds of prey. Many teachers use the cameras and discussion groups as teaching tools.
School assemblies are provided free of charge to Bay Area schools thanks to the generosity of donors. We describe access to our falcon nest cameras, the story of the peregrine falcon recovery, and examples of conservation fieldwork that await future biologists who have studied at the university. We deliver a seventy-page curriculum guide that is consistent with state standards, to teachers who schedule our assemblies.
Citizen Scientists are community volunteers who help operate the nest cameras, survey Bay Area peregrine falcon nests, staff observation posts during our annual winter survey of peregrine falcons, and, staff fledge watch shifts at urban peregrine falcon nests. These opportunities to intensively observe wild peregrine falcons have been described as “transformational” experiences by many of our volunteers.
University students learn peregrine falcon natural history and the story of the population recovery in a winter quarter class and gain experience working cooperatively with community volunteers for whom observations of wild peregrine falcons has become an important leisure time activity. They earn internship, independent study, and senior project credit through direct participation in our work throughout the year, but especially in spring.
The peregrine falcon is an important indicator species. Its carefully recorded population trends can be instructive about ecosystem health. We closely monitor the occupancy and productivity of peregrine falcons at approximately twenty-five nests in our Greater San Francisco Bay study area, and we band nestlings at a sample of those sites to learn more about the longevity, nest site tenacity, and juvenile dispersal patterns of Central California peregrine falcons. Citizen scientists around the bay report sightings of banded falcons.