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July 18, 2018

4/4/2018 1:42:00 PM
Return of the Raptors
Falcon chick, or eyas. Photo from Falconcam EPL
Falcon chick, or eyas.
Photo from Falconcam EPL
By Betsy Bird

Not every library hosts bloodthirsty killers every 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 their jobs but as it happens my new job came with a particular perk.  I have a near-unobstructed view of nesting peregrine falcons.

As you may or may not know, each spring EPL becomes home to a pair of falcons. 2018 will mark the
15th year that the Library will host the falcons and their nest. I am happy to report that the falcons have been swooping around downtown Evanston for a good month now. No confirmation, as of this writing, has been made as to their identity, but due to the fact that the male is banded and the female is not, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Squawker (a longtime resident of the library pillars) and Faye (now fully out of her juvenile plumage) are back. They have spent the better part of their time discussing, loudly, which column to nest in. The male prefers the one with the video camera that allows us our live FalconCam feed. The female appears to prefer the column the farthest to the East. No resolution to his matter has yet occurred.

As for their history, 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 leg while in the nest.  That meant Joel was the one in charge of raising the chicks solo.  The result was that for a while it was the library staff that actually took charge of her offsprings’ feeding.

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

In 2005, Joel partnered with another bird, Nona, whose original home was
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was around that time that the library introduced the live Falcon Cam.  It’s a non-invasive way of showing how the chicks are doing and what the parents are up to.

In 2006 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.

The falcons return every year, and officials estimate that around 40 young peregrines have been born on our library. Let us hope they continue the pattern.

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