DOWNTOWN — There are more of the world's fastest-flying birds zipping around Chicago after another successful peregrine falcon breeding season within city limits.
The Chicago Peregrine Program found 13 nesting locations in the city, where at least nine of the nests having successfully hatched fledgling young, according to Josh Engel, a researcher at Field Museum who's part of the peregrine program. Engel estimated about 25 new birds in Chicago this year.
Neighborhood nests include ones in South Loop, UIC, Millennium Park and Belmont-Addison in Lakeview, and on Chicago's "cribs," the four, man-made water-intake islands two miles out in Lake Michigan. Engel said researchers found one new peregrine nest this year Downtown, a few hundred yards from another nest.
Justin Breen talks about the comeback of the Peregrine Falcon.
Engel also said a banded young falcon was seen and photographed at Montrose Point recently. The bird came from a nesting site in West Milwaukee, Wis., which has produced several birds that bred in Chicago.
"The Chicago peregrine falcons had a successful breeding season," Engel said.
The raptor species is the fastest-flying bird in the world, as they can dive at 200 miles per hour, eating birds they capture — like pigeons — in mid-flight.
The Field Museum's Chicago Peregrine Program monitors peregrine territories. Last year 20 pairs attempted breeding, and 15 were successful, according to the group.
It's been a remarkable comeback for the bird, which was federally recognized as endangered in 1973 but taken off the list in Illinois last year. Though removed from the Illinois endangered list, they are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
A turning point for the bird came in 1972, when the use of DDT insecticides was banned. The agrochemical had caused shells to thin, preventing baby falcons from forming.
It wasn't until 1986 that the birds could be found again in Illinois, and 46 pairs were released in the next four years.
In addition to the DDT ban, their recovery can be attributed to their adaption to cities, and their protected status as an endangered and threatened bird, according to Mary Hennen, director of the program. The Chicago Peregrine Program monitors the Illinois population and places ID tags on the birds.
Check out some of the Chicago Peregrine Program photos of the birds taken by Josh Engel below or in the slideshow above:
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