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Two of Fay’s four eggs hatched this year, and the eyasses – the peregrine falcon chicks – that came out of their shells on a third-floor ledge of the Evanston Public Library were banded and named on June 6.
Mary Hennen, Assistant Collections Manager and Director of the Chicago Peregrine Program at the Field Museum, donned a sturdy helmet and a thick jacket, climbed onto the ledge and up a ladder to bring the chicks from their nest into the library. Brian Tsuru, also of the Field Museum, followed closely with a broom to ward off the parents Squawker and Fay, who, seeing their babies taken away, swooped and dived at the interlopers.
The chicks were for the most part quiet, as Mr. Tsuru and Mary Ann Duda, a veterinary technician at the Brookfield Zoo, assisted Ms. Hennen as she banded the chicks, took their blood and held them up as Librarian Karen Danczak Lyons announced their names, Nike and Zuri.
“The chicks are banded at this stage, because the leg is as big as it’s going to get,” Ms. Hennen said. “And there are no flight feathers grown yet, so they can’t fly away from us.” The bands identify each falcon and the date and place where it was hatched.
A grown peregrine weighs between 1¼ and 2¾ pounds and is 15-20 inches long. In level flying, a peregrine’s typical speed is 40-55 miles per hour; when swooping on their prey, however, they can fly as fast as 200 miles per hour
Peregrine falcons are no longer considered “endangered,” Ms. Hennen said, having been removed from the federal list of endangered species in 1999 and from the State of Illinois list in 2012.
“This is a bonus,” Ms. Hennen said of the banding. “The first thing is they are out there and breeding.”
The bands will identify the birds, but there is no satellite tracking, because the cost is prohibitive, she said.
The audience in the Library’s third-floor room – perhaps 200 adults and 50 children – greeted the chicks.
Claudia Tonella and Camille Blachowitz were the winners of the contest to name the chicks. Ms. Tonella said she chose Nike – the Greek word for “victory,” because “she is the goddess of speed.”
Ms. Blachowitz’s choice, Zuri, is the Swahili word for “beautiful” and is also the name of the noble father and lord in “Black Panther.” She wrote, “The beauty of these birds is uncontestable and it’s a tribute to the multicultural nature of the community as well.”
Peggy Macnamara, artist-in-residence at the Field Museum and author of several books on wildlife, said the banding of the peregrine chicks at the library is the only public banding in the area.
Ms. Hennen said, “Thank the library for that – Karen [Danczak Lyons] and, before her, Neil [Ney, former library director].”
Ms. Duda said she was surprised at the turnout. “It’s so cool for the library to do this for the kids to see.”
Evanston resident Ellen Galland brought her granddaughters to the event. “In Evanston, so many people show up for this. They love it,” she said. Tom Jackson said he plans to have a better view next time. “Next year I’ll know where to be.”
This is the 16th year peregrines have hatched at the main library, on Church Street at Orrington Avenue in downtown Evanston.
Squawker, hatched in 2003 at the WEPCO Power Plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., came to the Evanston library in 2006. He is the sire of 14 chicks. His long-time mate, Nona, hatched in 2004 in Firstar Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and preceded him at the library by a year, arriving in 2005. She was last seen in 2016, and, when Fay showed up a year later there was some temporary curiosity – and some surrogate jealousy – among the library staff. Fay is not banded, so her history is unknown.
The library peregrine falcons can be viewed live at www.epl.org/falconcam. There is also a Yahoo group: Evanston Peregrine Falcon Watch. More information about the Chicago Peregrine Falcon program can be found at http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/illinois-peregrines.