Peregrine falcons take over Chicago apartment balcony

See what happens when peregrine falcons take over an city apartment balcony:

It all started four years ago, when the birds began dropping by the building’s balconies early each spring. In April 2014, the couple got pretty cozy on Dacey Arashiba’s terrace. Arashiba, an I.T. consultant, was delighted, but his neighbors, put off by the birds’ loud noises and poop, complained. “My building manager told me the birds had to go. Maintenance staff shooed them off the balcony,” Arashiba says. “And that was it. For a while.”

But in June, the birds came back. A week later, the pair had laid three eggs in Arashiba’s flowerbox (“I am an occasional, lazy gardener and hadn’t replenished the dirt in a few years,” he admits.)

Now on the offensive, Arashiba called Mary Hennen, director of the Chicago Peregrine Program, who told him that falcons are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (and had previously been on the state and federal endangered species lists). It’s highly illegal to harass them (building management complied)…

Arashiba let Massey crash in his condo for a full month so the 23-year-old photographer could get close-up pictures of the birds as their chicks grew from tiny fluff balls to sleek (but spotted) youngsters. Massey’s assistant, Katie Stacey, was also there to help out with parts of the shoot, which required some precarious balancing of equipment to fully capture the birds’ vertigo-inducing existance.

There are some great pictures here. I wonder how many city apartment dwellers would have had a similar reaction to the Arashiba’s as their balcony became a lot more difficult to use. Would many have sided with the neighbors who complained? And if the birds had been chased away, could they have easily found a nesting site elsewhere in the city?

See an earlier post regarding a book about the birds of suburbia (“suburdia”).

“Suburdia”: a wide variety of wildlife in cities and suburbs

A professor of wildlife science finds a surprising amount of wildlife in urban areas:

John Marzluff, the scientist, is well known for his research on, among other topics, the intelligence of crows and ravens. In his new book, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods With Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (Yale University Press), Marzluff examines the effects of urbanization on a variety of birds…In more than a decade of research in and around Seattle, where he is a professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington, Marzluff and a small army of graduate students discovered a consistent pattern: Bird diversity grew from the city center, peaked in the suburbs, and dropped again in the forested areas between Seattle and the Cascades.

“We had discovered subirdia,” Marzluff writes. “Now I was really perplexed.”…

For many birds, the suburbs, as Marzluff explains, afford a wide variety of habitats. The trees, flowers, shrubs, ponds, and bird feeders that dot our neighborhoods make them attractive to many species. Add the golf courses, office parks, and retention ponds that are hallmarks of many suburban landscapes, and subirdia becomes downright appealing.

The suburbs are often criticized for their environmental faults including sprawl that chews up land and destroys natural habitats. Yet, these findings offer some evidence that the suburbs may not be all bad. It also leads me to two other questions:

1. Does this apply beyond birds? It sounds like it took a lot of work to establish these findings for birds. Yet, I assume some of the ideas would work for other animals as well as some would adapt and thrive to the suburban setting and others would not.

2. Such findings shouldn’t be used as evidence that suburbia is a positive for the natural environment. But, we shouldn’t continue to think in terms of pristine nature versus dirty cities. All of the environments in the United States, whether rural or urban, have been heavily affected by human activity.