In Melbourne, a Sky-High Drama Takes Hold

Melbourne’s peregrine pair have an enviable view, with their nest box overlooking the nearby Yarra River and arts precinct. Victor Hurley, a wildlife ecologist who heads the Victorian Peregrine Project, first set up the nesting box at the site in 1991. He signs off his messages “raptorially yours” and has an enthusiasm that appears undiminished. He says that the Collins Street pair are the only peregrine falcons known to be nesting in the Melbourne area, where a reliable prey base allows them to use their best food-catching weapon: speed.

“They literally fall like a rock out of the sky,” Dr. Hurley said. “Peregrine falcons can actually accelerate past their terminal velocity just by diving. They shapeshift their body profile to go faster than they should be if they’re just falling.”

It’s not just the falcons’ physical feats that fascinate people. Every day, thousands tune into the livestream to watch these birds of prey go about their daily routines, which have the drama of a good reality TV program: sex, death and high-speed chases.

This year’s nesting season has been even more dramatic than usual, with a second, younger male successfully ousting the first male (and father of the egg clutch) from the site. The new male is now trying to breed with the female, even while she incubates her current clutch of eggs. Dr. Hurley says this recent plot twist has seen the online community “go off like a frog in a sock,” expressing concern about the intrigue and what will happen next