Something exciting is happening on two rooftops in Macomb County. Spring is nesting season and in two Macomb County locations, eggs are incubating under two peregrine falcon pairs. These nests are high atop the roofs of the Old County Building in Mount Clemens and the General Motors Cadillac Headquarters in Warren.
And, thanks to a couple of well-placed “Falcon Cams,” you can watch these adult birds care for their eggs and hatchlings.
“The webcam is wonderful,” says Barb Baldinger, long-time member of the Macomb Audubon Society and former volunteer for the Michigan DNR. “Prior to that, we had to cover windows and make a peek hole so we could see the progress.”
Apart from natural curiosity about these majestic birds, Baldinger says it’s important to know when the eggs have hatched so the chicks can be banded by bird experts and followed throughout their adult lives. The Mount Clemens nest has been home to three different females over the years, and the current female, named Brookie Cookie, was hatched atop North Quad on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2019.
Although they don’t migrate, “peregrine means ‘traveler,’” Baldinger says, adding that Brookie Cookie has been laying eggs in Macomb County since 2021. “Last year she laid four eggs, and this morning she laid her fourth egg for this season.” Peregrine falcons lay a total of two to six eggs, one every 48 hours, and the eggs hatch in 33 to 35 days, Baldinger says.
The Mount Clemens nest was established in 2005 and has hatched 31 chicks over the years. The Warren nest started in 2014 and has hatched 22 chicks. Adult peregrine falcons typically live 12 to 15 years, according to Baldinger.
To the brink and back
And, we’re lucky to have these birds at all. During the 1950s, the population greatly decreased, partly due to the use of DDT in pesticides, which caused the birds to lay thin-shelled eggs.
“In the 1960s, there were no peregrine falcons east of the Mississippi River. Historically, there were 13 nests in Michigan and it took a big effort through many organizations to reintroduce peregrine falcons to cities,” Baldinger says.
In 1987, five young peregrines — Bogey, Freedom, Ollie, Sesqui and Sparky — were released at the Guardian Building in Detroit. But it wasn’t until 1993 that the first wild peregrine chicks in Detroit’s history — and the first in the lower peninsula for 37 years — were hatched on the Book Building to parents Pop and Judy.
Learn from the birds in Macomb County
The lives and habits of peregrine falcons are fascinating — these birds are known as the fastest animals in the skies for their dramatic aerial drops while they hunt. Families can learn a lot about peregrine falcons by watching the webcams in Mount Clemens and in Warren.
But if you’re seeking even more bird-watching opportunities, be sure to check out the St. Clair-Macomb Birding Trail, a guide to dozens of bird-viewing sites in the two counties. From Dodge Park to Tomlinson Arboretum to Stony Creek and Wolcott Mill Metroparks, you can discover the best places to spy a variety of bird species.
Use the interactive online St. Clair-Macomb Birding Trail map, or seek out the QR codes posted at many of the sites. Or, grab a paper map at the Macomb County Administration Building. The whole effort, launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, is made possible through the support of numerous partners, says Baldinger, who served as the Macomb Audubon Society representative for the birding trail.
“Get out and enjoy it,” Baldinger says. “COVID built an awareness of birds and there was more interest because we were all at home. But you can be involved at any level, from watching out the window to walking in local parks or traveling around the world. It’s a wonderful hobby you can share with the whole family.
Learn more about peregrine falcons close to home on the Peregrine Falcons Southeast Michigan Facebook page. And be sure to visit Make Macomb Your Home to discover more about what’s happening in Macomb County.