The Peregrine Returns: The Art and Architecture of an Urban Raptor Recovery

Category: Exhibitions

Exhibition Summary

Included with Basic admission

Closes Jun 24, 2018

All ages

Included with Basic admission

Closes Jun 24, 2018

All ages

About the Exhibit

Learn what nearly wiped out these predators—and how we’re bringing them back.

What happened to Peregrine Falcons as they faced extinction in the mid-20th century? What spurred their triumphant return to Chicago? These once-threatened raptors now make their home throughout Chicago, high atop the city’s skyscrapers and even outside people’s windows.

Lush watercolor paintings by artist-in-residence Peggy Macnamara are the backdrop for The Peregrine Returns: The Art and Architecture of an Urban Raptor Recovery. See how Chicago’s architecture has aided the peregrine's comeback, helping them survive and thrive.

Decades of dedicated research by ornithologist Mary Hennen, working with passionate conservationists, ultimately saved the peregrine. Learn how citizen scientists continue to help the cause—and how you can help peregrines too.

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In this watercolor painting, a peregrine falcon perches on a ledge to the left. Chicago’s lakefront and Grant Park are shown, with Buckingham Fountain shooting water into the air. The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium buildings are visib

Sweeping watercolor paintings throughout the exhibition, created by Field Museum artist-in-resident Peggy Macnamara, illustrate the peregrine’s triumphant return to Chicago.

Peggy Macnamara

Saving the Falcons

The resurgence of the peregrine population brings home how important specimen collection and study can be to future scientific research. When the peregrine population began to dwindle in the 1950s and 1960s, scientists compared eggshell fragments found in the birds’ nests to complete shells that had been catalogued in the 1890s.

The fragments were much thinner than their turn-of-the-century counterparts, providing a clue to the mystery of the falcons’ disappearance.

Scientists determined the culprit: widespread use of the pesticide DDT inhibited calcium production in the birds, causing a thinning of the eggshells, and the weight of the adult birds caring for the eggs crushed them.

This tragic discovery was the beginning of the peregrine’s recovery.

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