Austin's only year-round resident raptor with a global audience is now getting even easier to watch.
The University of Texas announced Friday that it is now offering a live stream of Tower Girl, the peregrine falcon who lives on top of the University of Texas at Austin Tower. The college's Biodiversity Center has launched a streaming webcam that will allow viewers around the world to observe the raptor in real time.
"I’m excited to see the camera up and running,” said Tim Keitt, a professor of integrative biology who teaches classes on birds and field courses in bird-watching and identification. “This is another opportunity to get students and the public excited about birds and nature.”
Experts believe Tower Girl has lived atop the tower for about eight years. They say the webcam comes at an exciting time because she has exhibited mating behaviors with a male peregrine for the first time in January. The camera will provide scientists an opportunity to gain important information about her behavior, mating habits, diet and nesting success remotely without having to disturb the bird -- or drive her off from her current location.
The university said that if she does lay eggs, viewers will be able to observe the eggs, including when and whether they will hatch. Since Austin is on the edge of the peregrine falcons' breeding range, any eggs hatched atop the UT Tower would expand that range for her species.
Still, UT said students have been learning from Tower Girl for numerous years as she is often the first subject students in classes like Biology of Birds observe, and they get to practice field work and observational skills using her as a subject.
Keitt said he hopes this opportunity will help those who watch her on the webcam be inspired to protect local wildlife and ecosystems.
“Nature that is not observed and appreciated by people becomes endangered through neglect,” Keitt said. “People's personal experience observing and interacting with biodiversity is how we come to value biodiversity and prioritize its study and conservation.”
Peregrine falcons are known for being able to reach 200 miles per hour when they dive, experts said. Their diet consists of mostly birds such as doves, grackles and pigeons. And since they were removed from the endangered species list in 1999, they are considered an endangered species success story.
It should be noted, however, their Texas status still remains endangered.
“Don't forget to go outside and identify some species after watching the webcam,” Keitt said. “The idea of biodiversity is really about how we interact with nature. We hope the Biodiversity Center will help people to reconnect with the diversity of life all around us.”
To catch a glimpse of Tower Girl, click here.