NETHERLANDS Watch the world's fastest animal develop from egg to fully-fledged speed phantom – follow the whole transformation live in their nest at Nuon’s Hemweg power plant in Amsterdam.

Spring is here and so are a pair of peregrine falcons that have made their home on the top of Nuon’s Hemweg power plant to expand their family and raise their chicks. Peregrine falcons have been nesting there, in the nesting box mounted high on the wall of the tall building, since 2007. Inside the nesting box, the two birds have already produced three reddish-brown eggs.

Courtesy of live feed cameras poised inside and outside of the nesting box, the hatching of the eggs can be seen; this year a new HD camera that transmits both audio and video has been installed. 

The fastest animal in the world
It is the same peregrine couple that returns by instinct every year. Sometimes they fight with their own chicks hatched the year before, because those chicks sometimes also return to the same nest before finding a nest of their own.

The peregrine falcon is not very fast when it flies horizontally. But it is a different story when it pulls its wings and legs close to the body and collects the tail feathers in a perfect aerodynamic shape and plunges vertically towards the ground. Then it reaches speeds of over 300 kilometres per hour, faster than any other animal in the world.

The peregrine falcon feeds almost exclusively on medium-sized birds and strikes its prey in the air, with a clenched claw, stunning or killing it with the impact, then turns to catch it in mid-air.

Likes to nest in tall buildings
Nuon is not doing anything extra to attract the peregrine couple at Hemweg, apart from cleaning the nesting box every year. The prerequisite is a tall building or chimney. In the wild, the peregrine falcons nest on ledges where no predators can reach them.

Another tall building in Amsterdam where urban-living peregrines hatch is the headquarters of ABN AMRO Bank, the third-largest bank in the Netherlands.

Almost extinct
The peregrine falcon is red-listed and was almost completely extinct in Europe due to environmental toxins, which weakened the egg shells. The fragile eggs burst and almost all nesting attempts failed because of the impact of toxins. 25 years ago, there was only one breeding pair observed in the Netherlands. Since the toxins were banned, peregrines slowly have increased in number, partly thanks to nesting boxes hung on high industrial buildings, such as the Nuon Hemweg unit.

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