:intro jingle: Emily: We’re here in the egg collection with Josh Engel who’s a research assistant in birds. And Josh, what is your involvement with the Peregrine program? Josh: I go along on the banding efforts to help gather the young from the nests. And, then when they’re inside I help with the banding. And, I do the blood draws so we have blood samples from all of the young. Emily: This is something that you do pretty regularly at this time of the year. And, what is involved with the process? I mean aside from calling up Tom in the night and getting us to grab our camera and go. Josh: Yeah, so there’s about a 3-week period. Starting usually the end of May going into June. Where all of the young Peregrine falcons in all of the 20 or so nests around the area are just the right size that we can grab them and put bands on their legs. Emily: So you went out. You got all suited up. You got your gloves, and your bike helmet and your broom. And, one of you will go out there. Take one of the young. Put it in a box, and bring it back inside. And, then what is it that you’re doing? Josh: Yeah, so we very carefully. We just have to lean out a window at that site. We reach down with our gloves. The Peregrines at this point, even though they can’t fly and they’re only 20-25 days old, they have pretty fearsome talons, very sharp beaks. So we definitely have to wear those leather gloves. We have the broom that keeps them both from hitting our heads, and also from flying into the windows that’s right there. And, then if we do everything right it just takes a few seconds, we grab the young, put them in a box, take them back inside. And, then we can take a deep breath and get everything organized on our little table. And, we have a lot of equipment with us for banding. We have the equipment for taking the blood samples. So, that’s a tube with a liquid in it that preserves the blood. Some cards that are specially treated to preserve DNA that we put blood on. One by one we take the young birds out. We put bands on their legs. Take a blood sample. Put them back in the box. And, when it’s all done we take them back into that same room. And, put them right back into the nest where we got them in the first place. Emily: And, then they’re good to go.
Josh: And, they’re good to go. Emily: How long does it take for them to become fully grown? Josh: After those first 3 weeks they’ll start losing those white downy feathers. Growing the brown feathers that are distinctive of their juvenile plumage. The flight feathers on their wings and tail will start growing to their full size. And, after about 3 more weeks… they go. Well, we hope that after 6 weeks they’re actually ready to go and that first flight is successful. Sometimes that first flight is– especially in an urban environment where they don’t have a lot of room to maneuver they end up on the ground, or on the roof of a nearby building or something. And if that happens and we find out about it we often actually grab them, and put them back in the nest. And, usually that second try is a go. Emily: Give them another go around. Josh: Birds across the board, the highest mortality they have is in their first year of life. And, that’s no different than birds of prey and other raptors. They make it through that first year, the lifespan is about average 13-17 years. I think the oldest ones we’ve had nesting in the Chicago area are 16 years old. And, at that point they get kicked out of their territory by a younger bird. Emily: How does this compare to like your other experiences, I guess, looking or viewing birds in the wild? Josh: Well, it’s a very different angle. I see Peregrine falcons all over the world. They live almost everywhere. I’ve seen them on different continents. And, it’s really amazing to see them in their native habitat, flying around cliffs, on mountainsides. But to see them here in this urban setting, a place where I grew up, and to get up close and personal with them– you know, there’s nothing like having a female Peregrine diving at your head because you’re trying to take the young out of her nest. And, that’s something in the normal course of my birding doesn’t happen. And, if it does something is very wrong. Emily: Then you’re not doing birdwatching correctly. You’re doing a scientific mission against the fastest animal in the world. Josh: They’re formidable. Emily: Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t want just.. Josh: Having them fly at your face over and over again can be a little nerve wracking. But, we do it in a way that we know we’ll be safe. And, we know that they’ll be safe too. Emily: Keeping that in mind, how do you feel about ‘Jurassic Park’? Emily: I mean you’re essentially doing the same thing. You’re battling dinosaurs. Josh: I’d take a Peregrine over a Velociraptor any day. Emily: Hah yeah, touche! :ending jingle: