Peregrine Falcons at UC Davis Medical Center | UC Davis Health

Peregrine Falcons at UC Davis Medical Center

For the sixth season, a pair of peregrine falcons returned to their nest atop UC Davis Medical Center. The nest sits a safe distance from the hospital's busy helipad.

In March 2024, the peregrine falcons laid four eggs. But, by the second week of April, all four eggs were gone. After reviewing the video, falcon experts noted that no other animals were near the nest. While they aren't sure what happened, the theory is that the female falcon removed the eggs herself because they might not have been viable.

Find out more about what experts believe happened

The chicks usually begin hatching in late April. William "Bill" Corbett, procurement supervisor at UC Davis Health, is also our resident falcon expert. He answered questions about these fascinating birds and why it's so unique to have them here.

About the Peregrine Falcon

Female peregrine falcon flying over UC Davis Medical Center
The peregrine falcon mom keeps a very watchful eye on her nesting chicks at UC Davis Medical Center. (Photo by Ken Waller, UC Davis Health)

The peregrine falcon used to be on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It was also one of the first birds placed on California's Endangered Species List.

Luckily, the raptor was removed from the federal list in 1999, thanks to efforts by The Peregrine Fund and others. The ban of DDT in 1972 in the U.S. also helped the species recover. The led to the falcons removal from the state Endangered Species List in 2009.

Experts estimate the first-year survival rate for the chicks is about 50%.  Urban falcons face hazards such as injury, illness, and predators. The young birds typically fly away from the nest at the medical center sometime in mid-June. Experts say the birds usually stay in the area for another month as their parents continue to feed them and encourage them to hunt.

Here are a few other facts about peregrine falcons:

  • Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
  • Body length: 13-20 in (33-50 cm)
  • Wingspan: 31-48 in (78-122 cm)
  • Weight: 1 to 3.5 lbs (0.4-1.5 kg)
  • Like many raptors, peregrine falcon females are larger than males.
  • Peregrine falcons can hit top speeds in flight of 200 mph and are considered the fastest animal on earth.
  • Peregrines don't build typical nests like other birds. Instead, they lay eggs in a shallow indent on the edge of a high cliff or other manmade structure, like a building or bridge.
  • Baby peregrine falcons can start flying at 43 to 44 days old.
  • Peregrines prey on small- to medium-sized birds, like songbirds, ducks, doves and pigeons. They are also known to feed on small reptiles, mammals and bats.

To learn more about the peregrine falcon and other birds of prey, check out the California Raptor Center at UC Davis and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.