Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Evanston Public Library #6: Live Raptors

January 12, 2016

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 a home for a pair of birds known affectionately by the names of “Nona” and “Squawker”.  For the past 11 years this same pair (insofar as anyone can tell) has nested together, making 2016 the 13th year that the Library will host the falcons and their nest.

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 wrist 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 offspring’s feeding.

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

nonahops2015In 2005, Joel partnered with another bird, Nona, whose original home was Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Unfortunately, he broke his wing that year and the wing did not heal.  It was around that time that the library introduced a  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 volunteer 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.

That year the chicks were all officially named.  They were:

  • May — for May Theilgaard Watts the late famed naturalist for Morton Arboretum, an ecology pioneer in the Chicago area
  • Dashiell — for Dashiell Hammett the author of the Maltese Falcon
  • Robinson — for Robinson Jeffers an American poet who wrote a number of memorable poems about birds of prey”

The falcons return every year and officials estimate that something around 40 young peregrines have been born on our library. Be sure you check out the falcon loving photographers that like to stake out the roof of the Carlson Building across the street for the best possible images of our winged visitors.

The pair has even inspired its own Evanston Peregrin Falcon Watch Yahoo Group, where interested parties can record their sightings (as of this post it has 165 members).

Finally, for those of you interested in celebrating our falcons through art, we recently acquired this piece from local artist Beth Adler.

Falcon Painting

It is now viewable on the third floor.

Want to know more?  Here are some resources listed on the FalconCam’s site:

More on Peregrine Falcons

For the latest in breaking peregrine research:
The Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey
Has photos, an online research library and newsletter about peregrines and other raptors.
Peregrine Falcons- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Brief facts about the peregrine.
The Canadian Peregrine Foundation
Has a raptor photo identification gallery, live webcams, and a reference page on peregrine biology.
The Raptor Center
Sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine,this site has information about what to do with an injured raptor, a section on the birds the center has treated, reports on peregrine falcons, and migration tracking maps. Users can view pictures and movies, and listen to individual bird sounds.
For further information about Peregrine Falcons see:
Web Sites:
Peregrine Falcons” from the Encyclopedia of Life
The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus.
The Field Museum’s web site about the reintroduction of Peregrines to the Chicago area.
The Chicago Wilderness article “How Peregrines Learned to Hack the Big City
Adult Books in the Library’s Collection:
Tennant, Alan. On the Wing : To the Edge of the Earth with the Peregrine Falcon. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
Tennant relates wild adventures while radio tracking Arctic Peregrines on their migratory journeys.
Baker, John Alec. The Peregrine. New York, Harper & Row, 1967.
One of the most remarkable pieces of nature writing. Baker, untrained in ornithology, devoted ten years of his life to studying Peregrine Falcons near his home in England.
Children’s Books in the Library’s Collection:
Unwin, Mike. Peregrine Falcon. Chicago, Ill., Heinemann Library, 2004.
Wechsler, Doug. Peregrine Falcons. New York, Rosen Pub. PowerKids Press, c2000.
Jenkins, Priscilla Belz. Falcons Nest on Skyscrapers. New York, HarperCollins, 1996.
Green, Carl R. The Peregrine Palcon. Mankato, Minn., Crestwood House, 1986.
Arnold, Caroline. Saving the Peregrine Falcon. Minneapolis, Carolrhoda Books, 1985.

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