Recounting the life of a successful Peregrine

Fran photographed at the Waukegan nest site.

S. Ware

I always say that every specimen that comes into the museum has a story, but there is no doubt that some stories have more to them than others.  Here is one of those stories.  On April 4, 2014, a Peregrine Falcon was found dead in Waukegan.  This bird was brought to the museum and prepared as a specimen.  It is now in the collection as FMNH #492345.  Because of the salvage programs Dave Willard, Mary Hennen, Tom Gnoske and now Ben Marks have overseen through the years, thousands of specimens have been added to our collections including more than 35 Peregrines, but FMNH #492345 was not just any specimen.  She was a banded individual, and she had been breeding successfully up in Waukegan for 13 years.  She probably was christened “Fran” by her original banders, and below is a lot of information about the life that Fran lived. 

First, she was born in Milwaukee in 1999, this could be determined because she was banded as a chick there.  Thus, she was part of the success story that began with hacking out chicks at urban sites across the Midwest back in the early 80s.  Fran’s parents or possibly her grandparents were part of the first generations encouraged to establish themselves in these urban settings.  In Milwaukee, Fran’s parents successfully raised her to fledging age and she subsequently dispersed to look for her own place to nest.  We have no idea how far she moved around, but she was first noted in Waukegan in 2001 with a mate.  The Waukegan nest site provided Farn and her mate a great base where each Spring they could hunt migrating birds to feed her brood.  The nest site was monitored that first year, and Fran and her mate fledged three young, but these young birds (called “eyasses”) were not banded.  Every year after that Mary Hennen did band the young that Fran and her mate produced and these data illustrate a lot about the breeding and population biology (life history data) of Peregrines.  Counting those first three unbanded chicks, Fran and her mate produced 44 chicks that were banded over 13 years for an average of 3.4 chicks raised per year.  I know what it took Shannon and I to get our only child, Peter, to where he left the house this year, and clearly we are still amateurs compared to Fran and her mates (yes, she had two different mates through the years, probably because one died).  Another way to look at this is that from the late 60's until the late 70's before the pesticide DDT was banned, almost no wild Peregrine Falcon eggs in the entire eastern U.S. survived incubation because they cracked due to egg-shell thinning blamed on the pesticide. 

While it is reasonable to think Fran was exceptional in her reproductive output, you also can see from these data on Fran’s productivity, why Peregrine populations have been able to recover from the catastrophic collapse that occurred in the 70’s.  However, it should also be apparent although the population is growing, we are not completely overrun by Peregrine Falcons, so there is no guarantee that once a young bird leaves the nest it will go on to a successful life raising its own young, and in fact most of these youngsters probably do not make it through their first year, because there is nothing easy about being a Peregrine on your own. 

At the end of this page, I have included the notes Mary recorded about each year’s nesting.  In 2006, Mary named the four banded chicks after Chicago Cubs radio announcers.  There was Santo, Hughes, Masur and Boltz.  Santo was recovered in December of that year near Guayaquil, Ecuador.  This is intriguing not just because it is 3000 miles away, but because it is consistent with Santo actually migrating south.  The Peregrine subspecies from the Midwest, Falco peregrinus anatum, is considered to be non-migratory.  There are a couple of possibilities here.  Maybe, F. p. anatum individuals are not entirely non-migratory as we thought.  But there is another interesting possibility, perhaps one or both of Santo’s parents carried genes from ancestors who were migratory as the result of genetic material brought into the midwestern population when it was established.  The parents of the first chicks hacked out in the Midwest came from falconers who were known to have some individuals from migratory populations.  This is something that can hopefully be determined because there are blood samples of Santo taken by Mary when he was banded and now we also have tissue samples from Fran. 

What else can we learn from Fran? We don't often know the actual age of many specimens, particularly older birds, that come into the collection. Fran represents an adult that lived a long, full life.  Fran clearly provides valuable information about aging of Peregrines in the wild.  We look forward to seeing what else others might want to study about this impressive bird. 

To learn more about Mary's long-term monitoring of Chicago region Peregrines check out her web site.

 

52606cubsmh2.jpg

Mary Hennen and colleagues with Fran's 2006 brood that Mary named after Chicago Cubs' broadcasters.

Here is the note I got from Mary Hennen along with her data on Fran:

Hi John,

Below is the nesting history for the Waukegan site.  Also, attached are a couple of pictures.  Just FYI with the cubs photo - In 2006, the young for that year were named after the Cubs radio announcers.  I'm holding Santo and Matt (on my right) is holding Hughes. The other 2 are Masur & Boltz.  Hughes has been breeding in Indiana for the past few years (and this year).  Santo was found in Dec 2006 near GUAYAQUIL ECUADOR with a broken wing.

Mary

Nest site: Waukegan (2013-2001)

2013 – This was the 13th year for this site. The adult female was confirmed as Fran (1999, b/g 5/*X), who has been only female nesting here. The adult male was identified as Greg (2005, b/g 92/N), his second year at site. Three eggs were laid, two of which hatched.  The chicks were banded on June 3rd.  Both fledged without issue but unfortunately one of the young (b/r 57/N) was killed on 8/17/13 by an aircraft strike at O’Hare airport. 

2012 – The adult female’s bands have been partially read as b/g, 5/??. In 2011, the adult female was confirmed as Fran (1999, b/g 5/*X), Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The adult male was identified as Greg (2005, b/g 92/N), Racine, Wisconsin. Four eggs were laid (the first on March 25th). On May 2nd, two chicks were visible. The adults were still brooding one egg, but the other egg was pushed off to the side. Three chicks were banded on May 29th and all three of the young fledged without incident.

2011 - First egg of 5 sighted on 3/23/11.  The adult female was confirmed as Fran, b/g 5/*X.   On 4/6/11, one egg was pushed off to the side and was not being incubated with the rest of the clutch.  That egg was collected on 4/12.  One egg hatched with the chick (female) being banded on 25th May.  2 eggs were collected at banding.  Fledging took place on June 14th.  The bird was grounded and returned to the roof behind the nest box on the same day.

2010 - 10th year for this site.  4 eggs were laid and only 2 hatched.  An unhatched egg was collected at the time of banding.  Banding took place on May 24th.  The adult female was confirmed as Fran, b/g 5/*X.   Both young fledged without issue.

2009-  4 eggs were laid and all hatched (3 girls and 1 boy).  Banding took place on May 26th.   All young fledged without issue.

2008 - 5 chicks from 5 eggs.  Banding took place on June 2nd; 2 boys and 3 girls.  2007 adults:  male b/g and female Fran 5/*X (b/g 1999 Milwaukee, WI).

2007- 4 eggs were laid by April 2nd with three hatching.  Banding took place on June 1st.   During banding an infertile egg was retrieved.  The adult female was identified as Fran (5/*X) and the male having a b/g band.  All young fledged without issue. Genetics indicate that this was a new male in 2007.

2006 - 4 eggs were laid by March 24th and all 4 hatched.  Banding took place on May 26th with all 4 fledging successfully.   Adult female confirmed as Fran.

2005 - 5 eggs were laid by March 27th.  The first of the 5 chicks was seen on May 6th.  Banding took place on May 31st and all 5 fledged successfully.   During banding the adult female was identified as Fran (5/*X).

2004 - 4 eggs were laid by March 27th.  The first of the 4 chicks on April 30th.  Banding took place on May 24th and all 4 fledged successfully.

2003- 5 chicks hatched around May 5th and 4 of the chicks were banded on May 23rd.  The runt was too small to band though a blood sample was taken.  All 5 chicks fledged successfully. The unbanded chick was grounded on 6/24/03 and taken to rehab at Springbrook Nature Center. It was banded and released in Lockport IL on 11/2/05.  On 11/7/05 it was grounded in Lockport.  It died later that night at Springbrook.

2002- This year 4 chicks (from 4 eggs) were banded on May 20th.  The female was also caught during banding and was identified as 5/*X (1807-77625, Fran, who fledged from the Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 1999.   The male was banded but not identified.

2001- , a pair of peregrines utilized the nest box, fledging three young.  As this nesting was not confirmed until after the young fledged, all the eyasses went unbanded at that time. 

adult id: Fran 5/*X, 1807-77625

 

adult id –

                        2013 -2001 female Fran (5/*X)

                        2013-2012 – male – Greg b/g 92/N

                        2010 – 2007 male b/g

 

The band sequences and names for eyasses are as follows;

 

 Year                                            Name                                            Sex                                        USFWS#                                                             MIDWEST ID# (color-band combo)

2013

Cesar

male

1126-14339

b/r 57/N

2013

Nancy

female

1907-02667

b/r 47/W

2012

Mandy

female

1907-02883

b/r 24/W

2012

Allison

female

1907-02884

b/r 25/W

2012

Matt

male

1126-14321

b/r 38/N

2011

Edie

female

1907-02658

b/r 05/W

2010

Jo-an

female

1907-02601

b/r 00/X

2010

Mecstr

female

1907-02602

b/r 01/X

2009

Cara

female

1687-30321

b/r 00/E

2009

Neala

female

1687-30322

b/r 01/E

2009

Ealga

female

1687-30323

b/r 02/E

2009

Kevan

male

1126-14001

b/r 10/D

2008

Betty

female

1687-21402

b/r 00/K

2008

Cecelia

female

1687-21403

b/r 19/K

2008

Brook

female

1687-21404

b/r 32/K

2008

Neumann

male

1126-06404

b/r 58/A

2008

Jon Boy

male

1126-06406

b/r 59/A

2007

Ian

male

2206-84629

b/g B/45

2007

David

male

2206-84628

b/g B/51

2007

Susie

female

1687-02068

b/g S/03

2006

Santo

male

2206-49472

b/g E/11

2006

Hughes

male

2206-49471

b/g E/09

2006

Masur

female

1687-02022

b/g K/33

2006

Boltz

female

1687-02021

b/g K/32

2005

Janine

female

987-40278

12/C

2005

April

female

987-40279

84/B

2005

Gus

male

2206-62794

D/09

2005

Tweety

female

987-40287

24/C

2005

Alicia

female

987-40280

13/C

2004

AJ

male

2206-49446

74/M

2004

Joe

male

2206-49447

91/K

2004

Rocky

male

2206-49448

92/K

2004

Angel

female

1807-91957

27/B

2003

Stewart

male

2206-62890

04/M

2003

Beth

female

1807-77794

25/B

2003

Maria

female

1807-77795

48/A

2003

Julia

female

1807-91955

49/A

2003 (2005)

Brook

female

1687-01961

b/g N/20

2002

Jay

male

2206-62827

b/g  11/K

2002

Seth

male

2206-62825

b/g  12/K

2002

Legene

male

2206-62826

b/g  13/K

2002

Macy

female

1807-77797

b/g  5/*4