Previous: How to Protect the Rainforest
Next: Banding Baby Dinosaurs



View count:46,782
Last sync:2024-06-19 21:45


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "The Chicago Peregrine Program." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 15 July 2015,
MLA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2015)
APA Full: thebrainscoop. (2015, July 15). The Chicago Peregrine Program [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2015)
Chicago Full: thebrainscoop, "The Chicago Peregrine Program.", July 15, 2015, YouTube, 05:22,
By the 1960s the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) was extinct in many states - including Illinois - because of the negative effects of the pesticide DDT. But, thanks to dedicated reintroduction and monitoring efforts over the last 30 years in part from Field Museum scientist Mary Hennen and The Chicago Peregrine Program, just recently these birds were removed from the Illinois threatened species list!

There is a TON of information about the Chicago Peregrine Program on The Field's website:

Read more about the announcement from the Chicago Suntimes:

Be sure to 'like' the Chicago Peregrine Program's Facebook:

Want to see more images of the peregrines in Chicago? We've got 'em!

Big thanks to Mary Hennen, Stephanie Ware and Josh Engel for taking the time to help us film this episode!

Come hang out in our Subreddit:
Twitters: @ehmee
Producer, Writer, Creator, Host:
Emily Graslie

Producer, Editor, Camera:
Tom McNamara

Theme music:
Michael Aranda

Created By:
Hank Green
Filmed on Location and Supported by:
The Field Museum in Chicago, IL

Emily: So we’re back at the museum with Mary Hennen, who is collections assistant here in birds as well as the director of the Peregrine Falcon program. So can you tell us a little bit about the background of the program and how it relates to what we’re doing here at the Field Museum?

Mary: The program came around in the mid 80s when Illinois came on board to try to help return the species to the state. So you had a bird which was historically here, that was gone due to man’s influence and that had to do with DDT affecting the eggshells and when too thin the weight of the adults crushed them and you had no breeding birds in the area and that’s called extirpation, when it’s extinct in a particular area. It turns out, that you can breed these birds in captivity, they can learn to fly and hunt without the adult showing them how, and it was those captive birds that became the base for all our wild population in the mid-west and in the eastern part of the US. And as those birds were out in the wild, they began pairing up and breeding on their own and surprisingly this cliff dwelling bird returned to cities. Cities are great, they’re nothing but a pseudo cliff, ample prey, no competition for the ledges. And as those wild breeding populations start go out, the ones that you were releasing from captive ???, you discontinue that.

Emily: So, what happens if you live in a high rise in a building down town and all of a sudden, you have some new room mates, in the form of a breeding peregrine pair, what should somebody do in that instance?

Mary: That becomes so much more common now because you have these high rise condos that the peregrines are going to. People love them, and it works out great, they’re calm birds and they’ll embrace them every year. Some ‘no, I don’t want them there’. And when the Peregrine leaves, there’s really nothing to the nest, they make a scrape which is just a depression in whatever substrates there. I’m going to help you prevent them from using it again, because the peregrines will find another place to nest and it’s better that they’re fine and they do that and move to a safer location, than to be problem for where they are.

Emily: What’s the significance of the numbers here on these bands? And why do you have two different sizes?

Mary: What you are holding are US official wildlife service bands, it has a nine digit number on it that’s unique, but it wraps around the whole band. To be able to read that, look at how close you would have to look at it, you almost need it in hand. So, what we do is put on another one which is called an auxiliary marker and that’s a lot easier to read through a spotting scope. The difference in the size you’ve got, is the girls are bigger than boys in birds of prey. And if there’s any doubt, and you think you just have a really big male but you think it’s a male you still want to go with the bigger band, because you know the leg is not going to out grow that size. So we get some funny-named males named Emily and there actually is! Our prison male was named Emily.

Emily: Oh! Your prison male?

Mary: Our prison male. One of our sites was on the Metropolitan Correction Center.

Emily: Oh! That's--that must have been an interesting place to go banding.

Mary: Well, we couldn't band there.

Emily: Oh, okay.

Mary: That was the--that was an inaccessible nest, if you think about the prison, you can't go out the window and down to the ledge, 'cause they don't want the prisoners to go out.

Emily: Yeah, I'd hope so.

Mary: So that was one we watched from afar. And then in the future, once they get out from the nest, if somebody gets a picture, we can read that and record the data of where they've gone. That's how we know that one of our young went as far down as Ecuador.

Emily: And then, you know, at the eventual end of the poor bird's life, somebody finds it and picks it up, and then you still have that record, and that's when the bird can come back to a place like The Field Museum and you still have this whole legacy of all this documentation throughout the bird's life, you know where it went, you know what it was doing, to some extent.

Mary: Think of the collection like a giant library.

Emily: Yeah.

Mary: And it's coming in, we don't know the questions or their capabilities to answer those questions. Technology, in the next 50 years, could advance to the point of we learn more about that, bu there is the reference material for the future.

Emily: Yeah. 'Cause you can't go back in time 50 years ago and get a peregrine from the same region, because they weren't here at the time.

Mary: We have a TARDIS.

Emily: We need the TARDIS. What's the climate look like for these birds now? Are they still threatened in Illinois?

Mary: They're--they're doing great and that's so happy to announce, 'cause this is what you're working towards, is to have a self-sustaining breeding population again. They just recently a few weeks ago came off the Illinois State Endangered & Threatened Species List.

Emily: That's fantastic! What would you recommend if somebody in central or South America or wherever the peregrine is found thinks that they might have one in their area, where--where should they go? Should they call you?

Mary: They can certainly snap a picture and e-mail it that way. I love cell phones, because it's so much easier than somebody on the phone going, "I've got a brown bird and it's got stripes on it", but I don't--it's a lot of birds.

Emily: Yeah. But through the use of social media, you can start to get people to talking about these things and keeping an eye out. I think that's one of the most important things, like, look, look to the sky. It's kinda hard to miss 'em, when they travel so fast. I mean, but then you do miss them. Cause they're gone in an instant.


Emily: It still has brains on it.