It may come as no surprise that a peregrine falcon in Maine has laid an egg this week, given that it’s the right time of year, but for those who have been using the Internet to watch one particular female peregrine and her mate live, the arrival of this egg is a sure sign of spring.

This is the second year that the BioDiversity Research Institute has hosted this webcam, though its biologists have known about and monitored this nest site since 2006. BRI Outreach Coordinator Patrick Keenan said the only other successful hatching of this peregrine pair was in 2007, when a single chick hatched and successfully fledged from the nest.

Keenan said peregrine falcons typically lay between three and six eggs, each one coming in intervals of about 48 hours. Once the clutch is full, eggs hatch in about 33 to 35 days.

“Unlike eagles and loons, falcon chicks hatch at about the same time, making them less likely to fight siblings that are smaller because they’ve hatched a day or so apart,” said Keenan.

“It’s very tough to be a falcon,” Keenan said. He said chicks have an 80 percent mortality rate before departing the nest. Weather can play a part, and so can sibling rivalry. For instance, if a clutch of multiple eggs hatches, and the parents can’t keep up with the chicks’ food needs or food becomes scarce, siblings will begin to fight and eventually the weaker one will succumb.

Adult falcons are very territorial of the nest, and will vigorously fight off intruders.

Keenan said chicks fledge after about six weeks in the nest, and spend another five or six weeks near the nest, and in the area, practicing flying, building up muscles and honing their skills. All the while, Keenan said, the adults continue to feed their youngsters until they’re ready to head out for good on their own.

This particular webcam was installed last year, when the peregrine pair laid four eggs. One chick successfully hatched and fledged.

“They were very diligent in caring for that chick,” said Keenan.

“We are ecstatic to see these birds breeding again,” said Keenan. “Last year they raised one chick that successfully left the nest, which was the only chick that hatched of four eggs that were laid. We hope the birds can be even more successful this year.”

The male in this pair has a known history, which is something that Keenan and others in the field have taken note of. This male is banded, providing biologists with information about his beginnings. Keenan said the male is 5 years old, and hatched and fledged from a nest at the Brady Sullivan Tower in Manchester, N.H. Keenan said he was banded in the wild by Chris Martin of the New Hampshire Audubon Association.

“It’s fascinating to know that Chris knows the parents of this male from five years ago,” Keenan said. “And since we banded the chick from last year’s successful hatching, depending on where it ends up we might be able to keep track of three generations of this family.”

BRI has been hosting wildlife webcams since its loon cam debuted in 2003. The webcams are provided free of charge by the institute, with collaboration and support from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The BRI peregrine cam is one of seven wildlife webcams operated by the institute and the others feature eagles, ospreys, loons and finches. BRI launched an online community site at briloon.ning.com to allow viewers to follow the events and post images and videos taken of various nest activities.

BRI now has nearly 2,000 members in its online community and continues to post video and written blogs about webcam observations and activities and biologists’ scientific findings.

“In Maine, breeding peregrine falcons are listed as endangered due to low population size with only 23 documented pairs nesting in 2008,” said BRI Raptor Program Director Chris DeSorbo in a press release. “These webcams serve multiple purposes — they can inform us about the causes of nest failures and they vastly increase people’s awareness and concern about the many threats facing wildlife.”

As for the status of some of BRI’s other webcams, Keenan said eagle cam 2’s bald eagle pair is currently incubating a pair of eggs while eagle cam 1’s bald eagle pair has yet to begin nesting. Keenan said a pair of birds has been seen making daily visits and mating on the nest, but so far has not taken the next step to call the nest a home.

Next month the switch on loon cam 1 is scheduled to be turned on, while plans for a potential loon cam 2 are still in the prospect stage.

“We have an exciting prospect for this year, but it realistically might not come together in time,” said Keenan. “But we’re always keeping an eye out for other nests to monitor in coming years.”

To learn more about BRI, to support the webcams and to watch wildlife where they nest, visit briloon.org.