Wednesday, May 27, 2009
A PEREGRINE PARTY
Earlier this year I started to observe a pair of local Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus as part of the work of the Chicago Peregrine Project. This is not exactly an arduous task for a keen birdwatcher, I just stand near the building where they roost and monitor their activity a couple of times a week. Unfortunately the building that 'my' pair use each year has not yet seen the successful raising of any chicks (but we live in hope!) but several other locations in the Chicago area are very successful. One of the most high profile of these is at Evanston Library. Today it was time to check out and band the fledglings at the library. This is a big event for many people who watch their developments on the Internet falconcam.
When we arrived the parents didn't take long to notice the increase in activity. As you can see, no one is volunteering for window cleaning duty when the falcons are in residence so the windows are rather dirty!
The two members of the team who are brave enough to venture out to collect the chicks are well equipped with helmets and thick gloves.
The chicks are quickly put in a box together and covered to keep the stress to a minimum.
Each chick is taken out of the box, one at a time and laid carefully on its back
The head and the top half of the body are then covered, again to reduce stress
Each chick is then given a unique set of leg bands which will help to identify it during its adult life. The timing for banding is very important because the bird needs to be pretty much full size when the bands are put on to ensure they don't become too tight later in life. Although these chicks are still covered in down they have grown almost to full size so it is the perfect time for banding.
As with most birds of prey, the female bird is noticeably larger than the male so there are different sized leg rings depending on the gender of the birds.
After the chick has been banded it is checked for any skin or feather parasites, if there are any a specimen is collected for research
Finally a blood sample is taken from each bird. This is used primarily for DNA records. An inherent problem with virtually all restoration projects of specific species is ensuring a wide enough gene pool to maintain a strong and healthy population, DNA records help to see if this is being achieved. The blood is drawn from the base of the underside of the wing.
Then the bird is uncovered and put back into the box
Oh if looks could kill! Or 'just you wait until I tell my Mom what you just did to me!'
Finally the naming ceremony - Elinor and Aldo, both literary choices by the library, Ean and Gaelic word chosen by the pub across the road from the library where the monitors sit to watch the adult birds during the year(!) and Deborah to honour one of the projects volunteers.
A couple more quick close-ups
All this fame and adoration is tiring!
Then the four precious little bundles are carefully taken back up to the nest and put back where Mom can come and look after them again.
On average sixty percent of Peregrine Falcons do not survive through the first year of their life. However this particular pair produced four chicks last year and three of them are still alive and well so they obviously do a good job of parenting. Here is hoping that this years clutch do at least as well.
Photo Credits - CJT
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