Australian Letters is a weekly newsletter from our Australia office. Register to get it by email. This week’s issue is written by Meghan Dansie, a freelance reporter based in Melbourne.
On the streets of Melbourne’s central business district, there is constant noise. Trams whizzed by as they passed each other, and legs lurched between shops and cafes, with crowds of people from offices to bars and restaurants after 5 p.m.
But over the past few years, Melburnians have become increasingly aware of their life in the skies above, with a pair of peregrine falcons nesting in the city’s financial district attracting intense public interest.
Since 2017, the private life of the peregrine falcon – the fastest bird – has been live-streamed from Melbourne to the world. Their return for another season earlier this month prompted social media posts from the Victorian prime minister, an increase in activity in a 30,000-member Facebook group and the release of a book dedicated to the Victorian prime minister. for children.
In the wild, peregrine falcons house chicks, or eyes, in protected nooks and crannies of cliff faces, where they are easily vanted to track prey and possible intruders. out. In cities, they have adapted to make the window ledges of tall buildings their home.
Melbourne’s peregrine couple have an enviable setting, with their nesting box overlooking the nearby Yarra River and the arts district. Victor Hurley, a wildlife ecologist who led the Victorian Peregrine Project, first set up a nesting box at the site in 1991. He signed his message as “raptorially” your” and has an enthusiasm that doesn’t seem to wane. He says the Collins Street pair are the only peregrine falcons known to nest in the Melbourne area, where a reliable hunting facility allows them to use their best hunting weapon: speed.
“They literally fell like a rock from the sky,” said Dr Hurley. “Peregrine falcons can actually accelerate beyond their terminal velocity just by diving. They change their body shape to go faster than they would if they were just falling. “
It’s not just the physical feats of falcons that fascinate people. Every day, thousands of people tune in to the live stream to watch these birds of prey tell about their daily routines, including the drama of a great reality TV show: sex, death and High speed chases.
This year’s nesting season was even more dramatic than usual, with a second, younger male successfully removing the first male (and nest father) from the site. The new male is now trying to mate with the female, even as he is incubating his current eggs. Dr Hurley says this recent plot change has caused netizens to “walk like a frog in a sock”, expressing concern about the plot and what will happen next.
“It’s a bit of a wait and see,” he said. “It will take us about eight days to find out, and also find out if she lays any more eggs.”
And what became of the original male, banished?
“He’s gone – either went to God or he’s now what we call ‘the flying man’, a non-breed male.”
Whatever happens to Melbourne’s peregrine family this season, interest in the bird’s soap opera is unlikely to go anywhere. Sue Lawson, who has written a book about birds, “Peregrines in the City,” says that during the pandemic, she’s found that falcons offer a comforting view that the world is wide. big is still going on, despite everything.
“It’s just that for me, life goes on,” Ms Lawson said. “You know, there’s a whole world out there. It also has a bit of drama, a real escape.”
Many people may be drawn to the love triangle, others by the story of hope, but Dr Hurley sees something else: “I think people’s initial passion comes from seeing a couple. A natural-born killer in the financial district who isn’t a corporate banker. “
Now for this week’s news.