The Falcon Returns – Life and Death on the 46th Floor

Mbres360 IMG_7289

Whatever post I had been envisioning to be cobbled from birding the last two weekends or downtown forays during the week has been usurped by Mbres360, the young Peregrine Falcon from my last post.


This morning began very birdy up on the 46th floor. My coworkers drew my attention to a female Golden-Shafted Flicker that had apparently struck the building. She was lying right outside the window on the balcony or ledge down the hall from my office. She looked perfect, except that she was dead. I don’t have it in me to photograph a dead bird; it seems somehow disrespectful. Yet I would volunteer to get her to the Field Museum, where she might be gutted and stuffed. They would do so respectfully, and keep track of her death in their records. If there was a way to get the building maintenance to open the window, I wanted to deliver the Flicker to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and the Field Museum. I ran back to my office and that’s when Kim called to me and said, “Lisa, he’s back.”

Mbres360 IMG_7279

Mbres360 was indeed back. The closer pictures are shot unfortunately through blinds, but still it was easy to see his bands and confirm his identity. He seems to have taken a liking to our rookery-like tower. And he looks bigger and more ferocious than last week.

Mbres360 IMG_7290

After I took these pictures, the Flicker Drama was continuing. I ran back to the other balcony where the maintenance guys had just removed the Flicker into a black plastic bag and it seemed inevitable they would throw it in the trash. Leslie, our office manager, put in a call to the management office to ask them to hold the Flicker until a collision monitor could pick it up. I called Bird Collision Monitors and asked them to introduce themselves to building security; and then the Flicker should be turned over to them. I never heard back, so all I can hope is that they were able to rescue the Flicker from a dumpster burial.

When I went back to Kim’s office the falcon was gone, but Kim said he was after a smaller bird that had also disappeared. Mbres360 has probably figured out he can get an easy meal by looking for stunned birds colliding with our building. He would not be interested in a dead bird, however. Personally I wish him luck, because it seemed way too much trouble to remove the Flicker for an uncertain outcome. I shudder to think what it would have been like to try to rescue a bird that was still alive under those circumstances. Not that I wouldn’t try…

Mbres360 IMG_7287

Down home with Climate Change

Thursday evening I attended a presentation at the DuPage Birding Club given by Doug Stotz, who is a Conservation Ornithologist with the Environmental Conservation Programs at the Field Museum in Chicago. Specifically the topic was climate change and its effect on Chicago birds. Ironically his talk was rescheduled due to a weather event.

We have all been so distracted by the abrupt changes in weather, it’s easy to forget how climate change is affecting everything else, and the interconnectedness of earth’s biological systems. For instance, Doug pointed out that because we had the early heat wave in March and the trees had leafed over, by the time the tropical migrants pass through Chicago in May, the normal abundance of early-leafing insects will be gone as the trees develop their natural immunity against them. So Doug predicted a less colorful spring migration. He also had a list of birds we could expect to not see after a while. I already remember thinking the last two years were not as birdy on the lakefront, so even in my casual observation, change was already occurring.

I’m thinking the disappearance this past winter and spring of American Goldfinches in my yard at my feeders, replaced by an unprecedented population of House Finches, must be due to climate change. The United States Department of Agriculture has a webpage with predictions of climate change effects on numerous species, the goldfinches among them. I didn’t expect the change to be so abrupt, but goldfinches have a varied seed diet, and apparently a year-round supply of niger in my yard isn’t all they require. I can remember talking to someone five years ago in Kansas City when I went down for orientation at the new firm where I work. He said he missed seeing goldfinches. I thought he must be crazy, they were all over my yard. Now I know he wasn’t crazy.

Henbit or Purple Deadnettle

I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the plant life this spring. There’s an enormous amount of Henbit, also known as Purple Deadnettle, in my yard. While it is not considered an invasive species in Illinois, it’s certainly become invasive in my yard!

While I was out digging up weeds and cleaning up the dead stems a bit, I took a few pictures of the birds that were in the yard.

I have a pair of Robins who were attracted to my digging. Sadly, their numbers are predicted to decline from our area as well.

The Mourning Doves are numerous as ever. This is definitely evidence of a species that keeps creeping north. I can remember when I first started paying attention to birds that someone told me Mourning Doves never used to be in the Chicago area. That cooing song of the male still sounds like something out Tennessee Williams or Faulkner to me.

Mourning Doves

And of course the ubiquitous House Finches. It makes sense that a warmer climate is just what they need. I believe they originated in California.

Female House Finch

Male House Finch

I took a brief walk over at the Portage this afternoon to see if the strong southern winds had blown in anything new yet. I was unable to detect anything but the same suspects as in the past two weeks. I did hear a couple goldfinches singing, and later when I came home a bright flash of yellow darted in toward my feeders for a moment, so they’re not gone yet. But I already miss their cheerful abundance.

American Goldfinches 4-16-2009

And one more picture taken during our last big snow storm, in February of 2010.

American Goldfinches - Winter 2010