Young falcons take flight, but look for adults next year

Videography by S K Vemmer

It’s nearly the end of summer and the three UIC peregrine chicks, now fully-feathered juvenile falcons, have fledged. The nest on the 28th-floor ledge of University Hall stands empty.

The city has plenty of food for the falcons to eat over the winter, but without a family to raise, peregrine parents Nitz and Mouse have the freedom to go where they want. They may stick around in Chicago or travel far from the city. But nesting site fidelity is strong — the pair will most likely reunite next spring to raise their third brood on University Hall.

Rosie, who nested on the building from 1999 to 2013, until Nitz and Mouse pushed her out and took over the nesting site, was last seen in May on UIC’s east campus. She raised 32 chicks on University Hall over the years. Now in her golden years at an estimated 17 years old, she is near the end of the typical lifespan for falcons in the wild.

Where this year’s three young birds will go over the winter is anybody’s guess. Falcons don’t start breeding until they are about 2 years old. To breed, they must establish their own territories. They may settle in areas of Chicago that don’t have resident breeding pairs, or they may disperse to areas outside the city. Falcons born on University Hall have been spotted as far away as New York and Ecuador and as close as Montrose Harbor.

Until next spring, keep an eye out for peregrines in the city and on campus. Watch high ledges and balcony railings for the silhouette of a falcon perched, watching the skies for prey.

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