Did you know that the city is putting up 21 families, rent-free, in some of the priciest neighborhoods, in custom-made homes with jaw-dropping views? The only catch is that they are filmed 24/7—and maybe the other catch is that these are families of peregrine falcons, those striking birds of prey.

Listen to WNYC’s Zoe Azulay report from one peregrine falcon family’s home at 55 Water Street:

Peregrine falcons have been listed as endangered in New York since 1992. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection and the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation have been working to restore the species by implementing peregrine nesting sites on tall buildings and bridges around the city which resemble the cliffs where falcons lay eggs in the wild. The live video streams of the birds allow the DEP to keep an eye on things, and bird cams have attracted some loyal fans along the way.

When the program started there was just one falcon pair in NYC, now there are 21. “The number is slowly and steadily rising,” said Douglas Auer, a spokesperson for the DEP.

Each spring, it’s the job of Chrisptopher Nadareski, the chief research scientist for the DEP, to mark that progress by banding the falcon chicks, which means putting a metal identification band around their talon. It’s not exactly an easy process.


First, he must scale skyscrapers and bridges to reach the nests. Then, he has to remove the screeching newborns while the mother falcon tries to do what comes instinctively: Peck his eyes out.

“I don’t fault her for it,” Nadareski said as he climbed out of a window of 55 Water Street. “I imagine I would do the same thing” if it were my kid.

55 Water Street has one of the oldest peregrine nesting sites, complete with live cam, in the city, and has provided space for over 100 falcon chicks to hatch over the past twenty years. In that time, employees take turns naming the new chicks. This spring's baby boom is made up of three girls, named Jonnie, Halle and, uh, Barbie Doll 55.

If you want to catch sight of your own falcon chick, it's not that hard. Though banding ceremonies are closed to the public, most big bridges in and out of the city—like the Verrazano, the George Washington, Robert F. Kennedy (ten in all)—have a nesting box somewhere on the apex of the structure. If you look close enough, you may be able to see one of the devoted parents returning to the nest with a dead starling or pigeon.

And, no, falcons won't be able to solve New York's rat problem because they don't eat mammals. Cats, though, are ready for that duty.