Thursday, June 04, 2009

June: A different kind of birdwatching

In my day job, I'm a graduate student in the biology department of the University of Illinois at Chicago. My fellow student, Isabel, studies the population genetics of reintroduced peregrine falcons in the Midwest, and I've been lucky enough to get to know these amazing birds as a result. On Tuesday, the baby birds at the nest site here at UIC were banded, and I was invited to tag along...

This is Rosie, the mom, a 13-year-old female who has been nesting at UIC for 11 years. She's old and she's tough and she doesn't take crap from anyone.

The babies, both male, cram themselves into the corner and glare at me. Peregrines are very good at glaring. Determining the gender of the birds is tough and is primarily based on size, especially the size of the legs. Males tend to be smaller than females, even as adolescents.

The unnamed, unbanded father. He's probably the same male who was here last year but without bands, it's hard to tell.

A staff member from the Shedd Aquarium retrieves the babies from the ledge and hopes the parents don't attack him. They didn't, but they were flying very close. Both he and the other retrieval expert report that at other sites they've been hit by angry falcons many times, hence the helmet.

Isabel (right) helps keep one of the babies calm while a vet from Lincoln Park Zoo takes a DNA sample.

It was pretty remarkable to watch the whole process, especially in the same room where a few months ago I attended a wine and cheese reception. There are some more pictures here, and if you want to know more about the peregrine falcon reintroduction in the Midwest, go to the Field Museum site here.


Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Peregrines are so cool! I find it funny, but encouraging that they do so well on the skyscrapers. You're so lucky to be able to see them up close. Thanks for sharing.

garden girl said...

How cool to get to see that. It's amazing they're doing so well in an urban environment, raising their babies on skyscrapers.

They often visit my husband and his coworkers on the window ledges of his building in the loop.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Quite a few years ago I was one of the volunteers that "watched" at the first released site in Evanville, IN. It was a fun experience. It seems rewarding even now since we occasionally see Peregrines in the area.