Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Home to roost

  • Written by  Katie Stacey
  • Published in Wildlife
Home to roost Luke Massey
19 Sep
2015
Peregrine falcons are finding a new lease of life amid Chicago’s urban high-rises

It’s a grey morning in Chicago and a mist rolls in from Lake Michigan. Twenty-eight floors up, Dacey Arashiba pours himself the first coffee of the day and settles on his sofa for his morning ritual in front of the box. But this is one box very few people will have the opportunity to watch, for this is a flower box, hanging from his balcony railing, and in it sits the fastest animal in the world. A peregrine falcon, brooding over her four chicks.

‘I first noticed them about four years ago,’ Arashiba tells us. ‘It was just standing there, scanning the horizon. And then it turned its head, and it looked at me, and I looked at it, and then it just sort of fell over, like a little Batman, and flew away.’

From that point on Arashiba would notice them resting on his balcony or swooping by as they hunted. Then last year the visits became more regular. ‘They took a bit of an interest in the flowerpot,’ he says, but unfortunately tenants of the surrounding condos complained about the noise and the birds were shooed away by the building’s maintenance. This didn’t deter them however, and a few months later they returned. When Arashiba saw that they had laid eggs, he immediately got in touch with Mary Hennen, the Director of the Chicago Peregrine Program, and learnt that they were federally protected.

‘It makes sense if you think about it,’ explains Hennen. ‘Look at the city as a pseudo cliff, situated on an ample waterway. Well you have to think, if you have all this territory that’s non-occupied, not used by great horned owls or anything, then there’s no competition. It has a great prey base, so why wouldn’t they use the city?’ 

Peregrines had been declared extirpated in the state of Illinois in the early 1950s. Sadly the first clutch on the balcony did little to changed that, all the eggs failed to mature, and Hennen believed it was unlikely the falcons would return. Then this year, at the beginning of April, the same pair of peregrines appeared on Arashiba’s balcony once again. The female created a scrape in the untended flower box, and laid four eggs. Arashiba waited and watched, updating his growing online audience throughout the process. ‘I’m not going to say they are exactly used to me,’ he says. ‘I wouldn’t go out there and try and pet them. But I can approach the window. I can open up the door to take pictures.’

All four eggs hatched into the fluffy white chicks pictured here, and steadily grew into four miniature versions of their magnificent parents, before all successfully fledged. There are now around 20 breeding pairs in total in Chicago, with six pairs living within five square miles of each other, and in June of this year the peregrine was removed from Illinois’ Endangered & Threatened Species List. As Hennen points out, ‘we should now be using the peregrine project as a springboard for educating us’.

This article was published in the September 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

Julysub 2020

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

Researchers have revealed just how many polluting microfibres are released…

Wildlife

Increasing reports of seized jaguar fangs and skin suggest that…

Geophoto

Forced isolation has given many of us the chance to…

Oceans

A fifth of the ocean floor has now been mapped,…

Wildlife

Four ex-circus lions discovered in France are due to be…

Oceans

A roundup of some of the top discussions from the…

Energy

The agave plant, used to make Tequila, has proven itself…

Climate

Concerns about the ozone hole have diminished as levels of…

Wildlife

In the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Munu – a…

Geophoto

Photography competition, Earth Photo, returns for the third year with…

Oceans

A new study reveals the process behind the strange phenomenon…

Wildlife

Hunting is a topic that attracts polarised viewpoints. But as…

Oceans

A compilation of 50-years worth of data on human activity…

Wildlife

From the US to the Mediterranean, herds of goats are…

Wildlife

Meet the 2020 Whitley Award winners

Wildlife

Protecting the most famous members of the animal kingdom may…