Evanston Public Library catches annual guests on Webcam

Annie Martin

The Evanston library will soon be home to four new Evanston residents, and a camera was installed so that all will be able to witness their births, first steps and first flight.

For the third year in a row, a pair of peregrine falcons has chosen to nest and hatch their young at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.. The nest isn’t visible from either inside or outside the library, but pictures, which are updated every few minutes, are available at www.evanston.lib.il.us/falconcam/.

“As far as the birds are concerned, (the library) is a cliff, and the south face of a cliff is a good location for the birds,” Library Director Neal Ney said. “And a sheltered location – something that is protected from rain and water – (is also important).”

The birds are nesting in the column cap to the left of the library’s Church Street entrance.

Two years ago falcons nested in a flower box, but in 2005 they moved to the column cap, a hollow area atop one of the library’s columns.

From inside the library, Ney saw the birds coming and going. When he went outside, he saw the female coming in and out of one of the column caps.

“I just put a ladder up on the inside of the building, looked out the window, and there were two eggs,” Ney said. “So then we set the Webcam up.”

Ney first saw this year’s eggs on April 11. There were three eggs when the camera was set up on April 12, and on April 16 a fourth egg appeared. Ney said he assumes the female falcon is the same one that nested in the library last year, but he knows the male must be different because last year’s male broke his wing in the fall and had to be euthanized.

Last year the birds hatched in June and fledged, or made their first flight, in July. Ney said that in a wild situation some of the birds, especially the males, will usually fly before they’re ready and land on the forest floor. The birds will stay there for up to a couple days and the parents will feed them there. But this poses a problem when the nest is over Church Street.

“(Fledging) is a big deal,” Ney said. “We’ve had cases where the birds just won’t fly again – they’re frightened – and we’ll end up having to pick them up, carry them back up and put them back in the nest. Last year we just put them in the flower boxes and the parents would just feed them there until they were ready to fly again.”

After the chicks hatch and their legs are fully grown, they will be marked with a band around their ankles to help identify them. The library employees will name them.

Ney said he’s hoping some of the chicks will be males because he wants to name one after Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Maltese Falcon, or after the poet Robinson Jeffers.

Although some library patrons are interested in the birds, many residents aren’t even aware they are there, Ney said.

“I have stood down on the front of the building with binoculars in hand, watching the birds mate and make incredible noise – people are coming and going as if nothing is happening,” Ney said.

Reach Annie Martin at [email protected]