PROVIDENCE — Soon, very soon, any minute now, the occupancy of the Superman Building, the tallest in Rhode Island, could double or even triple.
Four peregrine falcon eggs in a box near the top of the otherwise vacant building are set to hatch. This is all happening in full view of an Audubon Society of Rhode Island livestream. The male and female are taking turns and sometimes squabbling over who will incubate the eggs. On Wednesday afternoon, the male seems to be staring sternly into the camera, expectant.
Nice clear shot of the FOUR #ProvidencePeregrines eggs by @BiblioKat_RI! The fourth egg was laid yesterday evening. The Peregrine Falcons will take turns incubating but typically most of the brooding will be done by the female. Watch them #live at https://t.co/VZuuXm9gyS (1/2) pic.twitter.com/MZzNAVkPUs— RIAudubon (@RIAudubon) April 8, 2021
“They’re just amazing to watch,” said Peter Green, an author, urban wildlife photographer, downtown Providence resident and perhaps the most dedicated peregrine-watcher in the state.
As he was interviewed by phone Wednesday, he kept an eye on the livestream. The eggs were laid about a month ago, a few days apart, so they are expected to hatch soon. Not all will survive, but those that do will add to a population that’s been pulled back from the threat of extinction.
“New life hatching — it’s just amazing to see it,” Green said. “Somehow new life comes out.”
Green is the author “Providence Raptors,” a book featuring his photography and observations about the peregrine falcons and various other birds of prey in downtown Providence. As they’re going on with their daily lives, people can miss some incredible scenes that would be the climactic act of any nature documentary. A wood duck peeking out from a tree in the city. A falcon and a hawk in aerial battle. A falcon, nostrils closed to prevent a disabling inrush of air, swopping down, the fastest animal in the world.
“They’re so perfect at what they do,” Green said. “They’re so streamlined.”
What they do is eat other birds. A few weeks after the peregrine falcons hatch, Green and others will go up to the Superman building to band them. They’ll often find scattered bird heads everywhere. They don’t eat the heads. It is the sort of thing that people who love birds for what they are — wild animals, not sentimental objects — really appreciate.
Once listed as an endangered species, the peregrine falcon rebounded after the pesticide DDT, which weakened its eggs, was banned. The peregrine falcon was removed from the list in 1999 and is now listed as a species of least concern. They started nesting in a box on the Superman building — also known as the Industrial National Bank Building at 111 Westminster St. — a year later. The camera was set up in 2010. Since 2000, 61 peregrines have hatched. Once they do, the viewership can go from nothing to tens of thousands.
“Every year, it’s a celebration that peregrines are coming back,” said Jeff Hall, the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s senior director of advancement.
Right now the Audubon Society is having a fundraiser called a Party for the Peregrines. Usually it’s in person but not this year. Instead it’s a virtual fundraiser including a raffle, with a live event Friday. One of the things you can win is a chance to go up there as they put bands to track the newly hatched peregrines. Some of the money will help fund the care of 13 injured raptors they care for at Audubon sites, including a peregrine named Zephyr who injured a wing when it hit a seawall.
For people who want another view of the species, there’s also the webcam, which will soon break out into new life.
“You get to see nature up close,” Hall said Wednesday. “This is it. They’re gonna hatch, and they’re gonna hatch soon.”