February 22, 2010 / 8:14 PM / in 8 years

Avian couple to "tweet" their breeding story

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - When it comes to getting the word out about the state capital’s most famous avian couple, what could be more appropriate than Twitter?

State officials have opened an account on the popular social networking website to allow users to keep up to date with this year’s breeding cycle of a pair of Peregrine falcons that nest every year high up on a state office building.

The rare birds of prey -- only 21 pairs bred successfully in Pennsylvania in 2009 -- have raised a brood on the Rachel Carson Office Building each spring for the last six years, a process that has been covered in real time by a live webcam set up near the nest.

This year for the first time, the birds will also be able -- with a little help from officials at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection -- to tweet the arrival and growth of their family to subscribers worldwide.

Department spokeswoman Susan Rickens said the Twitter feed so far has about 50 subscribers from as far away as Britain and Germany, but she expects a lot more when the eggs are laid in late March.

The aim of the Twitter feed is to increase interest in and understanding of the birds and to promote the message of their conservation, said Rickens.

“This is for people to talk about the efforts to conserve them,” she said.

Peregrine watchers were concerned that the pair might not breed in their usual place this year because the male had not been seen at the usual time. But he appeared on February 4, raising hopes that the pair will again produce a brood, said the DEP’s education director Jack Farster.

“Each year, people from around the world contact us with their stories and comments about the falcons,” Farster said. “Now they will have an online forum to discuss their sightings, observations and thoughts about these Peregrines.”

The female has returned to the building to nest every year since 2000, and is now on her second male after the first was injured in 2005, officials said.

For the last several years, the female falcon has laid a clutch of five eggs. They hatch around Mother’s Day, and the young falcons begin to fledge, or take their first flights, around Father’s Day.

Peregrines, the world’s fastest birds, are making a comeback after their numbers were decimated by the DDT insecticide in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Fans can follow the falcons’ progress at www.twitter.com/FalconChatter, or by clicking on the Falcon Cam button on www.depweb.state.pa.us.

Reporting by Patricia Reaney

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