The built-up environs of Melbourne's CBD are hardly ideal for wildlife, but for one pair of peregrine falcons – the world's fastest animal – it is home sweet home.
Unlike most birds, peregrine falcons don't build stick nests. Instead they carve out scrape nests, usually on a high cliff or on the window ledges of tall buildings.
On the 33rd floor of 367 Collins Street, there have been five pairs of falcons since 1991. The most recent pair became proud parents four weeks ago when three nestlings hatched.
As their parents swoop outside, nestlings are brought inside to be tagged with a coloured metal band on each leg. Photo: Antoni Partington
Yesterday, Victorian Peregrine Project Manager Victor Hurley "banded" the nestlings. As their parents swooped outside, the nestlings were brought inside the building to be tagged with a coloured metal band on each leg.
"We can read these (the bands) on a telescope from 250 metres away," said Mr Hurley.
"We can monitor where they go, how long they live for, how many young they're having, what sort of nest sites they're using, that sort of thing," said Mr Hurley.
Unfortunately, it will also be used to identify many of them when they die.
"Here, 80 per cent of the young die within the first six months of leaving the nest," he said. "They hit windows, hit cars, hit wires, drown in rooftop swimming pools, get inside a building and starve to death on the weekend," he said. "And they're trapped, shot and poisoned illegally by people who race pigeons. You name it, things are happening to them."
Consequently, said Mr Hurley, in Victoria there's only about 40 to 50 band-wearing adults.
Collins Street is one of 180 sites in Victoria and is one of the more productive sites, with 36 nestlings over 22 years. There's even a closed-circuit TV relaying footage of the nest to a screen in the 367 Collins foyer.
Besides being fast – they can reach 300 km/h in a swoop – peregrine falcons are predators, feeding on other birds. Melbourne's green spaces, said Mr Hurley, are rich with quail, sparrows, starlings, pigeons, and other tasty treats. Albert Park Lake and the Altona grasslands are particularly popular feeding spots.
Consequently, the Collins Street nest looks set to remain inhabited. "The regular return of these birds to the CBD is a good sign of Melbourne's liveability for our birdlife," he said.