ROCHESTER, Minn. — The first egg of the year produced by a pair of peregrine falcons nesting atop Mayo Clinic in Rochester came a couple weeks early and had bird experts watching the birds scrambling.

“It’s certainly early — about a week, week and a half before I would actually expect an egg,” said Jackie Fallon of the Midwest Peregrine Society, who observes the birds. “It kind of threw me for a loop.”

Fallon said she planned to begin watching for eggs next week.

Mayo staff spotted the egg Tuesday, March 16, and posted pictures of Hattie, the female of the pair, perched on her rooftop nest box with a small egg behind her.

Fallon confirmed it was a falcon egg and is now watching the nest camera for more. Anyone can watch a livestream of the camera at https://history.mayoclinic.org/tours-events/mayo-clinic-peregrine-falcon-program.php.

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For now, people shouldn’t be concerned Hattie isn’t sitting on the egg to incubate it. Cold isn’t bad for the egg and will actually help all the eggs Hattie will lay develop at roughly the same time.

“Actually, cold is better than excessive heat,” Fallon said.

For now, Hattie will continue to hunt and will likely only sit on her first couple eggs if temperatures fall to or below the freezing mark.

After she lays her next-to-last egg of this year’s clutch, Hattie will begin sitting on the eggs to incubate them.

Each egg will likely arrive every other day, Fallon said. After that, incubating them will help them develop at roughly the same time to hatch in about five weeks.

“But nothing is ever exact,” Fallon said “And it can take chicks longer to hatch.”

Smaller chicks face a disadvantage competing for food with their siblings, she said.

“Mom and dad are going to feed whoever’s the loudest and whoever bullies their way up to them first,” she said.

Fallon said she’s guessing Hattie will lay four eggs. This is Hattie's fourth year producing fertile eggs. She laid three eggs her first year and has laid four eggs each year since. Of those eggs, eight have produced full-grown chicks that have fledged the nest. She produced three full grown chicks her first year. Three of the pair’s four chicks died due to some type of poisoning in 2018, her second year of nesting. Last year, all four of her chicks grew to leave the nest on their own.

Once Hattie begins incubating the eggs, Orton, her mate, will be the sole source of food for her and the chicks.

“He’s going to be one busy guy keeping everyone alive,” Fallon said.

Mayo Clinic has had a nest box atop its building in downtown Rochester since 1987. Hattie has been the resident falcon hen for six years.