Chicago Peregrine Falcon Blog officially Retired!

•April 9, 2014 • Comments Off on Chicago Peregrine Falcon Blog officially Retired!

This is good news! Our team now has its own Facebook page, which you can find here:

This means that you will hear from not just me, but also from Mary and Matt! I’m pretty excited about this. I will keep this page up for posterity and for anyone interested in looking back at old peregrine news, but for your brand-spanking new peregrine news, go to our Facebook page. See you there!


STICKY: Peregrine Sightings and Leg Bands

•April 1, 2013 • Comments Off on STICKY: Peregrine Sightings and Leg Bands

IMPORTANT: If you see or photograph a peregrine with bands on its legs, please write to me at If you are in another state, I can make sure that the sighting is reported to the monitors for that state, so feel free to send the info to me. Birds banded in the Midwestern US receive black over red or black over green bands, as you see below (click on the pictures for larger versions). We have birds from Midwestern Canada come through fairly regularly with black over black bands. You will notice that both legs are banded. The band on the right leg is a US Fish and Wildlife band, usually purple or silver. This band generally cannot be read unless you are very close to the bird or have it in hand. The bands on the right are designed to be read from farther away. Any information about bands is relevant to us – even if all you can say is “I saw a banded peregrine on April 10, 2012 at the corner of State and Maine in Detroit, MI.” Try to answer as many of the following questions as possible:

  1. Date and location of sighting, as precise as possible.
  2. Was the peregrine banded or unbanded?
  3. What were the colors of the bands?
  4. Could you read the letters or numbers on either the top or the bottom band? If so, what were those letters or numbers?
  5. Were either the letters or numbers sideways? (see Zoom’s bands below on the far left: black over red, sideways 4 over H)

2012 Uptown Peregrine Female's Legbands 2012 Pilsen Peregrine Male's Legbands Etienne's Bands

STICKY: Field Museum Peregrine Page is Live!

•May 2, 2011 • Comments Off on STICKY: Field Museum Peregrine Page is Live!

The constantly updating official Field Museum Peregrine Falcon page is up! This means I’ll be scaling back on this site a lot, but I will still post little tidbits now and again. This message will always be at the top, so look below this message for my latest update.

If you get a picture of a wild peregrine falcon in Illinois, please post them at Flickr Group – Midwest Peregrine Falcons. If you do not have a Flickr account, please contact me at as every picture may have important data for the ongoing study! As always, my peregrine photos can be found on Flickr as well. I have updated nesting info within the sets.

UIC Banding

•June 25, 2013 • Comments Off on UIC Banding

StartledBarring any surprises, UIC should be the last banding of the season. We’ve banded 17 females and 18 males this season, which is a nice, big number. Population continues to be healthy. UIC was so late because the new adult female and male took the territory from the resident adults, Rosie and her unbanded mate, late in the season. Mary and I made a nest check shortly after the new birds laid eggs and were shocked to find a known Chicago adult female named Nitz had made the move to UIC after trying to nest in the Lawndale area for years and then disappearing altogether for a number of years after. I talked about it in an earlier post.

I didn’t get the adult male’s ID last trip out, so I was pretty excited to get another shot at it. We were met at the top floor by our good friend Judee and about a dozen others. I stayed at the back of the pack as Mary took the group to get a quick look at the nest ledge. I wanted to have room to shoot in case I saw the male in the air. I also wanted to be able to check out every window along the way, just in case. About half way to the nest ledge, there he was, sitting on a ledge about two sectors down from his chicks. I quietly dropped away from the group and started shooting. He revealed his legbands very quickly. His name is Mouse and he was born in 2008 at our Broadway site. He is tiny and very pretty, so I figured he was named because he was “tiny as a Mouse”.

There were four eggs originally laid, but only three hatched. This is common. Somewhere along the line, one of the chicks died, which also happens. So, we had two chicks to band — one male and one female. Mary had invited two interns from birds to come along, so we had some extra hands.

It all went very smoothly. When we got back to the museum, Mary told me that she’d actually named Mouse, the adult male. His siblings were named Whine and Sympathy. This absolutely triggered my memory. Mary wasn’t at that banding, so we reported on it when we got back that year. One chick, Whine, was a noisy little female who cried and bit during the entire banding. She was a handful. Her sister, Sympathy, wasn’t quite as noisy, but she was still full of gusto. Mouse was the only boy and he was a small one at that, so he was the tiniest little thing and also hardly made a peep during the whole process. I remember him clearly now. So cute. And he still is!

Wrigleyville Banding

•June 17, 2013 • Comments Off on Wrigleyville Banding

Totally Into ItWe are winding down to the last few bandings. Boy has it been a long season! The chicks at Wrigleyville nested in a flower box on the balcony of a very nice couple. She’s been taking videos all season and sending them to her grandchildren, most of whom live in California. I guess it’s been the talk of the family. Sadly, most of her grandkids were in summer camp and the like, so they couldn’t come out for the banding. However, one of her grandsons was in attendance.

We didn’t have a place to band where there weren’t windows, so Mary and Matt decided to band just off the nest balcony. They were initially worried that the adults would be very upset and we had a contingency for that. However, the two adults were actually ok. They were VERY present and did not take their eyes of the activity inside even once during the 45 minutes it took to band all four chicks (two girls and two boys). However, they weren’t panicked – they were quiet, not screaming, and did not come up to the glass even once. They stayed safely perched on the railing and nest box, watching intently.

Wacker Banding

•June 11, 2013 • Comments Off on Wacker Banding

Waker Male Chick: JudeTwo females, two males.

I am really rooting for Wacker this year after the tragic loss of Rahn just after the chicks hatched. All five chicks hatched and, sadly, one was lost early. Today, Matt, Mary and I met with the Wacker building folks to band the chicks. This would be a very good opportunity to see how healthy they looked, so we were eager.

Curtis, the lone adult male, valiantly defended the ledge when Mary went out to get the chicks. This was good to see. One of the first things we noticed is that all four chicks had very full crops. This meant that they were being fed. They also made a lot of good, healthy noise and were squirmy. All good signs.

The guys in the building named the four chicks after their kids, so we have Jude and Liam, our two males and Blayke and Parker, our two females.

The next hurdle is fledging. I wish these four well. Curtis is a three-year old strapping male, so I’m hoping he finds a mate next year. He currently holds the oldest and one of the best territories, so I don’t think he’ll have a hard time attracting a mate.

North Broadway Banding

•June 10, 2013 • Comments Off on North Broadway Banding

Group Shot 02One female.

Mary and I drove up to Broadway to meet Matt, our friend Kris from the USFW and Kris’ son Miles, all ready for the Broadway banding. We weren’t quite sure how many chicks to expect. Auntie Em had laid five eggs, but she’s an older female, so it is not unusual for only one or two to hatch. We met with security downstairs and one of the guards said there was only one chick but that, “It’s huge!!”

We band in the small lobby area on the peregrine nest floor. As everyone set up the banding gear, I went to the small windows to look out and see if any adults were around. Unfortunately, the windows were pretty dirty. On top of that, we had an extraordinarily foggy day for Chicago. I mean, it really looked more like San Francisco, with a thick bank of fog rolling in off the lake. Pretty, but not the best for viewing the in-air antics of the fastest animal in the world.

Matt and Kris went into the small room adjacent to the nest and went out the window. I stayed in the lobby area and did the best I could to try to catch the adults in flight. Because the windows are about four panes of reinforced glass, polarized and dirty, I had to set the ISO really high to get enough shooting speed. I was hoping this wouldn’t make the photos so grainy that I wouldn’t be able to read anything on the bands. I did the best I could do as the adults came roaring out of the fog and passed by the windows as lightening speed.

Indeed, there was only one chick, but she was indeed a large and healthy one, so that’s great. Consequently, the banding didn’t take very long. Matt said that Auntie Em refused to move when he went to get the chicks, so he just grabbed her and held on to her inside while Kris went out to get the chick. That’s the third adult female this year that Matt has gotten to hold during chick retrieval!

When I sat down later to pull the shots off the camera, I was pretty dismayed at the dismal quality. That said, I did get bands and Oh Boy, what a surprise it was. Turns out, we found Stan of the Uptown. I think I’ve mentioned before that Zoom is still at the Uptown but she has no eggs. Monitors up there had been reporting that they’ve only seen one bird for most of nesting season. We’d sort of assumed that something had happened to her mate Stan early in the nesting season. Something did, apparently. Stan obviously had his head turned by another older female up the way. So! The Stan mystery is solved. I wonder who he will end up with next year?

St. Mary’s Hospital Banding

•June 5, 2013 • Comments Off on St. Mary’s Hospital Banding

St. Mary's Hospital Adult Female: UnnamedOne female, two males.

Boy, we are on a banding streak! Today was St. Mary’s Hospital. Met with the great group of people there, including our main contact Carmelo, who I like a great deal. As Mary and Matt were setting up the banding gear, I was getting my camera gear ready so I could stay out and ID the adults while they banded.

Pretty soon we were out on the roof heading for the box in the corner. I was lead broom with Mary in the middle and Matt on bass broom. As usual, the St. Mary’s female, who the hospital calls “Mary”, was attacking from every which way. She’s one of those that will go to ground on you and take on your ankles if she can get to them. This makes her pretty unpredictable. So, as she came in low for an attack when we got halfway to the box, I happened to look to my right and ‘lo! Two chicks were cuddled in a little niche. I pointed them out quickly and Mary plucked them up and put them in the box. “Mary” (lot’s of Mary’s in this story!) laid 5 eggs this year (a cue that I’m talking about the peregrine, not my team leader), so we weren’t sure how many chicks had hatched. We thought maybe four. As we hit the next low wall, we found another chick. When we got to the box, no chick but one unhatched egg. Mary (team leader) asked Matt and I to quickly check the rest of the room in case there was one more chick. We did a thorough circuit, but the count stayed at three.

The adult male’s bands at St. Mary’s drive me crazy. The bottom red band has some sort of schmutz or corrosion or something all the way around, so the sideways “W” is impossible to read. This year, I decided to try to concentrate on the USFW band, which is virtually impossible to read unless you have the bird in hand, are about 5 feet away or have one of those extraordinarily long lenses that cost a bajillion dollars. None of these conditions existed for me when we went to band at St. Mary’s.

Unlike his mate, Neal doesn’t come close unless he is actually swooping at your head. The only time Neal gets a chance to swoop at my head is when the team is going out to the nest box and I cannot take my camera when we go to the nest because I couldn’t snap photos and man the broom to protect the team. I am just not that coordinated.

So, while Matt and Mary banded the three chicks, I stayed out on the roof to get the adult IDs. I was stuck with hundreds of far off flight shots for Neal. I did manage to get one USFW number in a flight shot. But, at some point, I was so bloody hot, I decided to go back inside for a minute to cool off. When I came back out, I noticed Neal had landed while I was gone, but didn’t catch him down.

I decided to play jack-in-the-box with Neal. I’d go inside for 5 minutes, ready myself with the camera and then pop out the door and hit the shutter button on high speed motor drive with the camera pointed in the general vicinity of where I thought he might land. I got lucky that Neal is a little OCD and landed in the same spot every time. That spot was still pretty far away, but at least I had both his legs visible for a few seconds.

Using the four shots, we were able to absolutely identify Neal as Neal.

Savanna Banding

•June 4, 2013 • Comments Off on Savanna Banding

Stephanie at the Mississippi

Crossposted from Beta|Erinyes.

Whirl has never seen the Mississippi River. This seems like a horrible oversight when you consider the following facts: the Mississippi River forms the western boundary of Illinois for 550 miles; Whirl has lived in Illinois for nearly 18 years. I mean, it’s right there. It’s a huge river. It’s worth going to take a look at for just that reason alone. But, for whatever reason, she’s never travelled anywhere along its length. So when the assignment desk handed out the banding task for the two chicks nesting on top of a grain elevator in Savanna, she jumped at the chance. And then immediately turned around and asked if I wanted to come along and shoot.

So I took a day off from work and we got up early in the morning to catch the train up to Wilmette where we met up with Matt. After a quick stop to get coffee, we were off on a three-hour road trip across the state to Savanna. We travelled for a while through construction season along I-90 before heading off on US highways and quiet, rolling state roads. It reminded me that you don’t need to go particularly far to get completely out of the big city of Chicago. I tend to forget that from time to time, and it’s nice to be reminded every once in a while.

We gathered two more members of the day’s team from the local US Fish and Wildlife office. Eric and his intern, Jamela, joined us and we headed over to the Consolidated Grain and Barge elevator that sits directly on the Mississippi riverbank in Savanna.

As we waited for Jeff from CGB to arrive and provide access, Whirl took in the expanse of the river. The Mississippi is running five feet above normal and has flooded all of the river islands. In April it was running even higher and flooded into the town. Although we learned that the extent of the damage was mostly limited to a few business basements and that the business owners had sworn off FEMA assistance and resolved the damage themselves.

Matt Heads to the Office Jeff arrived and the team got to work. I was on the camera. CGB and US Fish and Wildlife installed a nest box on the elevator in February, 2010. A camera was added in February, 2012. Both of the peregrine adults are unbanded– a fact that has been proved many times by the nest cam– so my photo assignment was just to take some fun pictures and document the area.


  • Hard hats? Check!
  • Heavy jackets? Check!
  • Climbing ropes and harnesses? Check!
  • High-tech cardboard box for chick transport? Check!

So while Eric, Jamela and Matt headed up to the roof of the grain elevator, I stood on the riverbank with Whirl and tracked the two adults as they harried the well-intentioned chick-nappers.

Savanna Adult StallsPeregrines are noisy. When they are defending a nest, they are very vocal. They attract attention. Shortly after the trio went up to the roof and stirred them up, we were greeted by about a half dozen neighbors living nearby curious to see what was going on. Everyone we met was very friendly and happy to share their experiences with the birds. The town has really embraced them living there. I like to see that.

It was a cool and cloudy spring day. Matt and Whirl set up the banding table outside under a big shade tree. The banding went quite well. One female, one male. Although I do need to mention that when Matt brought out the needles to draw blood, the small crowd that had gathered around to watch quickly dispersed. I took a few pictures of the process and got a portrait of each chick before returning to try and get a picture of a killdeer in flight– a task that proved too difficult. I settled for a Great Blue Heron in flight. Bigger, slower target. Easier to get. Still a magnificent bird.

Great Blue Heron 3

Matt and Eric returned the chicks to the nest box. The adults calmed down and we headed off to get some lunch. At lunch we met up with Matt’s college roommate, Al, who also works for US Fish and Wildlife in land reclamation. Al took us to Hawg Dawgs, a biker bar with delicious burgers attached to Frank Fritz Finds of American Pickers fame. Over lunch– and for some time after lunch– Al spun story after story about his work, the town, the river, himself, college with Matt and just about anything else you could ask for. Al was great company. After lunch he took us up to Mississippi Palisades State Park north of Savanna. We climbed up onto the river bluff and took in the expanse while dodging huge swarms of flies and mosquitos.

After a quick stop at the flooded boat launch and the gas station to refuel for the trip back, we headed off for home.

It was a very good day.

Waukegan Banding

•June 3, 2013 • Comments Off on Waukegan Banding

Group ShotOne female, one male.

Today, we banded the two Waukegan chicks. Mary and I met at the museum and then drove up to the plant to meet Matt and Joel. This is the first time I’ve seen Joel this season and it was great to catch up! As usual, the plant had invited a rather large group to view the banding. We had a number of Waukegan city officials, a couple of local teachers and two of their students, plant employees and representatives from the local press.

I really like going to Waukegan for a number of reasons. For one, the plant itself has character. It was built in 1923 and strikes me as both foreboding and beautiful. There are little architectural flourishes here and there that seem like surprising additions to a building designed entirely for dirty and hard work. I see something new every time. For two, the guards at the security booth are hilarious. They have to do a full security sweep of everyone and everything entering the plant, which can be off-putting. While it is very obvious they take the task very seriously, they use humor to make the whole experience more comfortable. They crack me up every time. For three, the plant employees are incredibly nice and always show a lot of enthusiasm with regards to their falcon residents.

The female who established the Waukegan nest in 2002 is also a big reason I love going to this banding. She was born in 1999, so is one of the oldest females in the state. She has raised 40+ chicks during her reign in Waukegan and I am always glad when we confirm that she’s made it another season. And confirm it I did. While Mary, Matt and Joel set up the banding gear, I went out on the roof with my scope and camera to identify the adults. Fran was perched on a walkway railing. Her bands show the wear and tear of 14-years of high impact living and are pretty hard to read, but I was able to get a very nice look at them through the scope. The sideways “X” on the bottom green band is nearly scratched off. The male was, as usual for him, perched quite a bit further away. I stayed stationed on the camera while Mary and Matt went out in hopes that I’d get a chance at his bands. He gave me one really quick and really nice look at them, so I could confirm that Greg was back.

There were two chicks for Waukegan, one male and one female. The team made short work of the banding and then posed for pictures with the group. Soon, we were on our way back out the gates, another year at Waukegan in the books.

Millennium Park Banding

•June 1, 2013 • Comments Off on Millennium Park Banding

Pivot Dive

Crossposted from Beta|Erinyes.

When late spring comes around, it’s not unusual for Whirl to invite me along on a peregrine falcon banding. I don’t work for the Field Museum. To be perfectly honest, I don’t work in science. But that being said, I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to tag along and experience what she does with the falcons firsthand. Today she took me to the Millennium Park site. The birds have nested several hundred feet up on the penthouse deck of a 30-story member of the historic Michigan Avenue street wall. The site has a commanding view of the city and Millennium and Grant Parks. Also of interest, the lobby of the building is trimmed in solid cast and green Italian bronze, with solid bronze doorways. This pair has an eye for luxury accommodations.

Whirl and I met up with Matt and Mary in the early morning and headed up to the penthouse apartment where Neal was waiting for us with his two children, Ethan and Olivia. Neal had brought his kids into the city the night before and had a sleep-over especially so they could be here to attend the banding. So after introductions and setting up the banding table, Matt, Mary and Whirl suited up in heavy clothing and helmets, armed themselves with brooms and headed out onto the deck to retrieve the chicks. Ethan and Olivia, still dressed in pajamas, stayed back with Neal and me to observe.

Millennium Park Male I got on the camera and tried my hand at combat photography from the doorway as both adults immediately set upon the trio of scientists outside. Screaming, diving, strafing– the two birds seemed to be everywhere at once. Whirl makes this look easy. I assure you it is not. Fortunately, it just takes some time to get in the rhythm of what is happening and the patience to just keep shooting. As I like to joke in the era of digital photography, “film is cheap these days.”

So I kept shooting and pretty soon the team returned with four chicks, two males and two females. The banding went very well. In short order the chicks were fitted with their new jewelry, blood drawn, feather samples taken. Olivia produced an iPhone and shot some of her own stills and video of the chicks squawking inside the house.

Both kids were quite taken with the birds. They reacted with intense curiosity and a long list of very smart questions. They also helped Whirl find prey remains that were littered across the deck. From a certain point of view, aspects of studying predators can be a bit gruesome. The kids weren’t put off by any of it and stayed with us the whole time. Olivia wants to name one of the chicks, “Fluffy”. Ethan hasn’t quite decided on a name for the other one, yet.

Before too long, the team completed with the chicks and returned them outside to the scrape. The adults squawked a few more times and settled down with food for the chicks shortly after their return. They’ll be fledging before too much longer, and set out on their own lives. And then we’ll see what happens next.

River Birds Banding

•May 31, 2013 • Comments Off on River Birds Banding

Heeeeeere's Autumn Hope!Two females, two males.

River Birds banding day! Jason, an enthusiast in the area that has been watching this pair from his office window for a few years, joined us as did two guys from the office above the nest ledge, Charlie and Ryan. Of course the two building engineers, Marty and Andy, were also there to help get us in the building and out on the ledge. Good group!

When we opened the blinds to the window that leads to the ledge, we were surprised to find Autumn Hope plastered up against the window. She had her wings flared and was making a lot of noise. It wasn’t hard to figure out she was letting us know that she was NOT happy to see us and that we’d best step back before she opened up a can of whoop-ass. Even though we are much larger than her, she did present a prickly problem. It’s not fun to get hit by a peregrine, but even moreso, we didn’t want her to hurt herself going after us. We had a quiet team meeting and it was decided that Mary and I would open the window slowly and Matt would reach through and grab Autumn Hope. Thanks to Matt’s incredible reflexes, the plan worked to perfection! Matt held Autumn Hope and Mary and I went out on the ledge to retrieve the four chicks.

The male, who I still hadn’t identified, was flying above us, stooping down and screaming, but he wasn’t coming in very close. Soon, Mary and I were back inside with the chicks. Matt held Autumn Hope out the window and we slowly closed the window to it’s narrowest opening before he let her out of his grasp.

The banding went great! We had two females (one large and one medium) and two males. I had to help out with the banding a bit more than usual, so I didn’t really have time to try to get the male’s bands. After the chicks were banded and Matt and I were heading back out to the ledge to put them back, Jason offered to take my camera and try to get some shots of the male. Unfortunately, he had to shoot through the window glass AND the male stayed pretty far away, so we didn’t get an ID. That said, I am really thankful to Jason for trying! Charlie and Ryan told me that they’d spread the word to their office mates that if the male landed on their window ledge, they were to try to get camera phone shots for us. I have hope we’ll get the bands yet!