Peregrine Chick by local artist Beth Adler is on display at the library. Photo from Adler George Studios

Not every library hosts bloodthirsty killers each spring.

Not every library is Evanston Public Library.

When I started my job as Evanston’s new Collection Development Manager I was given a lovely little desk with a window that looked west down Church Street. My desk came with a computer, a phone, and a pair of binoculars. Few Collection Managers are given binoculars when they start out but as it happens my new job came with a particular perk;
a near unobstructed view of nesting Peregrine Falcons.

As you may or may not know, each spring EPL is home to a pair of birds known affectionately by the names of “Nona” and “Squawker.” For the past 11 years this same pair (insofar as anyone can tell) has nested together, making 2016 the 13th year that the Library will host the falcons and their nest.

The first pair of falcons, Sarah John and Joel, nested at the Library in 2004. There were four eggs but sadly Sarah John broke a wrist/ankle while in the nest.  Joel was now the one in charge of raising the chicks. The result was that for a while it was the Library staff that actually took charge of the offspring’s feeding.

“We had a case of frozen quail in the freezer that we’d thaw out and then feed to their babies,” said Assistant Library Director Paul Gottschalk. Lucky chicks.

In 2005, Joel partnered with another bird, Nona, whose original home was Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Unfortunately, he broke his wing that year and the wing did not heal. It was around that time that the Library introduced a live Falcon cam It’s a non-invasive way of showing how the chicks are doing and what the parents are up to.

2006 rolled around and The Field Museum got involved. Their staff and volunteers took it upon themselves to take blood samples from the chicks and to band them. This banding will help scientists keep track of the species. Why do that? Well, Peregrine Falcons were
on the endangered species list as recently as 1999.

These days the falcons return every year and officials estimate that around 40 young peregrines have been born on our Library. Be sure you check out the falcon-loving photographers who will stake out the roof of the Carlson Building across the street for the best possible images of our winged visitors. The pair has even inspired its own Evanston Peregrine Falcon Watch Yahoo Group, where interested parties can record their sightings.

Finally, for those interested in cele-brating our falcons through art, EPL recently acquired a piece of artwork featuring an eyas (baby falcon) from local artist Beth Adler. It is now viewable on the third floor.

Betsy Bird is the Collection Development Manager of Evanston Public Library. She has been writing for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.