Keep an eye on resident falcons

Peregrine Falcon Nitz

Peregrine falcon Nitz nests in 2016 atop a University Hall ledge. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Bird-watchers, keep your eyes peeled.

The birds of prey, who have made University Hall home for more than 20 years, have been spotted on campus, with just weeks to go until nesting season begins.

Of the two birds who are occasionally perched atop UH, one has been confirmed as Mouse, a veteran male nester. The second bird could be Nitz, UIC’s second longtime falcon friend, or a new female. Experts from the Field Museum, who come by every year to check in on the birds and band any chicks, may identify the female later in the spring.

“[The birds] have been swooping together,” said Judee Olechno, associate director of special events in the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

A longtime falcon follower, Olechno reports that the two have been seen making dives that the raptors are famous for, which can reach a record-holding 240 mph. The pair have also visited ledges at UH, moving pea gravel in the process. Falcon fans can watch them live online.

But the sightings and signs of courtship still don’t guarantee nesting at UIC or broods, for a number of reasons.

Nitz, for example, would now be 18 years old, matching the age of the oldest breeder in the Chicago area.

“The older they get, you have a greater chance of the population not being successful,” said Mary Hennen, director of the Chicago Peregrine Program.

Still, hopes are high for the pair, and the ledges are ready to welcome more chicks, thanks to work being done at University Hall and thoughtful planning by construction crews.

“They did a wonderful job on those ledges,” said Hennen, referring to new windows that allow easy access to possible nesting sites and new gullies near those windows with pans and pea gravel, which is better for nesting than rocks. “We’re excited about the season.”

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