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Today: City to Name and Brand Baby Falcons

The Evanston Public Library has been home to eight consecutive generations of the world’s fastest birds hatching over twenty peregrine falcons.

From the City of Evanston:

Four baby peregrine falcons hatched in early May high above the downtown Evanston streets at the Evanston Public Library. The library has been home to eight consecutive generations of the world’s fastest birds hatching over twenty peregrine falcons.

“For the past several years, a pair of peregrine falcons has nested on one of the columns along the south side of the library and at least one baby falcon has successfully fledged each year,” explained Evanston Public Library Director Mary Johns. “While the nest cannot be viewed directly from either inside or outside the building, the library has set up a webcam which transmits a streaming live image for all to enjoy.”

The falcon cam is accessible here>>>

The public is invited to join staff in naming and banding of this year’s brood of baby peregrine falcons, an ongoing tradition of the Evanston Public Library Peregrine Falcon Program, on Tuesday, May 31st at 11a.m., on the third floor of the library. Mary Hennen and Matt Gies, representatives from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the Shedd Aquarium, will oversee the delicate operation.

The peregrine falcon is a raptor, or bird of prey. Adults have blue-gray wings, dark brown backs, a buff colored underside with brown spots, and white faces with a black tear stripe on their cheeks. They have a hooked beaks and strong talons. Peregrine falcons are the fastest flying birds in the world – they are able to dive at 200 miles per hour and catch their prey in mid-air. There are an estimated 1,650 breeding pairs in the United States and Canada.

Peregrine Falcons have adapted to living in many cities and make use of tall buildings that provide suitable ledges for nesting and depend on the large populations of pigeons and starlings in cities for food. Peregrine falcons mate for life and breed in the same territory each year.

“Peregrine Falcons nested on the library for the first time in the summer of 2004. That year there were four eggs, but shortly after the eggs hatched the female broke her wing leaving the male to raise the chicks on his own. Only one chick successfully fledged. The female with the broken wing received veterinary treatment and now appears in nature education programs,” added Library Director Johns.

The peregrine falcon, a symbol of the once endangered species, mirrors the rebirth of libraries across the nation. Librarians are as busy as the falcon parents, providing ready access to information, employment assistance for job seekers, bridging the digital divide for the homeless, supporting our beleaguered schools with community outreach programs, homework help, and early childhood through teen programs. While providing books to be sure, libraries are vital to the people of the towns and cities they serve.

For more information, please contact the library Reference Desk at 847/448-8630.

History of the Evanston Public Library Peregrine Falcons

In 2005 the same male returned to the Library with a new mate and three chicks fledged successfully. In the fall of 2005 the male broke his wing; despite treatment the wing did not heal and he had to be euthanized. 2005 marked the debut of the FalconCam.

In 2006 four eggs were laid in mid April, three chicks hatched in mid May and all three fledged successfully in June. That same year, staff and volunteers from Chicago’s Field Museum banded and took blood samples from the chicks, and they posed for a photograph. One of the three chicks is female and two are male. They were named: May (for May Theilgaard Watts the late famed naturalist for Morton Arboretum, an ecology pioneer in the Chicago area, Dashiell (for Dashiell Hammett the author of the Maltese Falcon), and Robinson (for Robinson Jeffers an American poet who wrote a number of memorable poems about birds of prey). The mother was the same female that nested here in 2005, an unnamed bird born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For a short while they were seen around Evanston, but they soon dispersed, and their current whereabouts are unknown.

In 2007, there were four peregrine falcon chicks hatched, three males and one female. The birds were named: Zipporah (for the wife of Moses. Her name in Hebrew means "little bird”), Baker (for John Alec Baker an obscure British librarian who wrote a memorable book of nature writing titled Peregrine) Horus (for an Egyptian deity usually represented as a falcon or a falcon headed man), and Boccaccio (for Giovanni Boccaccio the author of The Decameron, which contains a memorable story about a falcon).

In 2008, there was one male and three females falcons hatched [Correction: Mistress Hussey turned out to be male, so there were actually two males and two females. He was presumed female at the time of banding because there was some doubt as to gender, and Mary Hennen of Chicago’s Field Museum always errs on the side of female to prevent any chance of a still growing leg becoming constricted by the smaller male band.] The chosen names were: Neal (for Neal Ney - semi-professional bird and nature lover, former Evanston Public Library Director), Brigid (for Brigid O'Shaughnessy the main female character in the Maltese Falcon), Mistress Hussey (for Mistress Margaret Hussey who was compared to a falcon by poet John Skelton), and Rebecca (for Rebecca West the author of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia).

In 2009, four library peregrine falcons were banded, sampled and named in May. Their names are: Deborah (for Deborah Cohen, a dedicated caretaker of several generations of the Evanston peregrines), Aldo (for Aldo Leopold, an American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist), Ean (the Gaelic name for "bird"), and Elinor (for Elinor Hoyt Wylie, American poet and novelist who wrote a poem titled "The Falcon").

In 2010, three library peregrine falcons were banded, sampled and named in May. Their names are: Lorraine (in honor of Lorraine H. Morton, Evanston’s first African-American mayor), Hennen (in honor of Mary Hennen, the director of the Chicago Peregrine Program for 19 years), and Perkins (after Dwight Perkins who was known as the "father" of the Cook County Forest Preserve System).

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