- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Twenty-one stories above the streets of downtown Peoria, three baby peregrine falcons sit in a wooden box secured to the roof of the Chase Bank Building.

Jim Robison, a local falconer who built the box, has been waiting for this day for 12 years. This rooftop nest proves that the previously endangered birds are learning to adapt to city life, he said.

In addition to being a full-time wildlife artist, the Hopedale man also raises, trains and hunts with falcons. He said it’s becoming more common for falcons to be born into the traffic and commotion of cities, nesting on tall buildings much like they would cliffs.

But, he said, these three baby males represent the first known time a peregrine has nested on a building in downtown Peoria.

As Robison approached the box, he gently picked up each of the football-size birds, cradling them like infants. The territorial, unbanded parents circled overhead as Robison and fellow falconer Amy Ries secured metal silver bands to the birds’ right ankles and colorful ones to their left.



The birds, covered in a patchy, soft white fuzz, were between 22 and 24-days old - an ideal age to band - said Ries, of North Branch, Minnesota, who has worked for the Raptor Resource Project since 1994.

Each band has a number that can be read using binoculars, helping the bird community track the movements of the fastest animals on the planet, she said to the half a dozen people gathered on the roof, including Robison’s wife and son; and the owner of the building, Susie Armstrong.

“If you don’t know where they’re nesting, you can’t protect them,” Ries said.

Robison first saw a falcon downtown in 2004, when it flew by him and Armstrong at eye-level, swooping past the courthouse to snatch a bird.

Armstrong called a few days before that to let him know about recent falcon sightings. That’s when he and Armstrong decided to install a box at the building at 411 Hamilton Blvd. for the birds of prey to nest.

The birds didn’t move in as soon as they hoped, though. Instead, Robison said, they were nesting on the McClugage Bridge, where many of the birds learning to fly would fall and drown.

But he believes the recent construction work being done on the bridge may have caused enough of a disturbance to influence the habitation of the Chase building.

Ries said this is not only good for the falcon community, but also for the city.

“It is a sign of health and vitality if a city can support peregrine falcons,” she said.

Armstrong said the downtown community has shown a lot of interest in the city’s new residents.

She often gets phone calls and emails from people in surrounding buildings updating her on where they last saw the adult falcon - perhaps sitting on a ledge outside their window.

A webcam also is set up on the box, so Armstrong can monitor the babies from her office.

“I’m really enthused about people getting excited about living with wildlife,” Ries said.

As for the babies, Robison said, come September they will likely migrate to South America before returning to Peoria.

Robison said he doesn’t know if the birds will decide to again nest on the building, but if they do, he’ll know if they’re back based on their identification number.

When the last bird is banded, David Robison, 14, hands his dad the baby falcon before they are taken back to their parents. The teen has been surrounded by falcons since he was born and helps his dad raise and sell falcons at GyrFarm, a family-owned business. David said he plans to continue working with the birds, just like his dad, hoping someday his own children will do the same.

“We’re the next generation taking care of them,” he said. “It’s becoming a dying art and it’s a history that needs to be preserved.”

___

Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/28J2pMt

___

Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide