Sightings in my Backyard – Chicago

Sightings in my Backyard
I  looked out my kitchen  window to check the  weather thermometer as I do every morning and there  on my wooden fence between my neighbor’s house and mine perched a huge speckled bird where in the 50 years I have lived in this house I had never seen anything bigger than a Blue Jay.

He was savagely tearing bloody chunks out of something he was holding down with one claw. This bird was larger & heavier looking than a hawk. I called  my neighbor to look out the window. “What is that bird?” He guessed an American Peregrine falcon.

I watched for a few minutes to  learn what he was eating. It was a rat. He’d tear off a bite, looking alertly to the right and to the left, then chugging it down and going for another bite. I ran to get my Natural History of American Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Okay it was a Duck Hawk aka Falco peregrinus anatum. Other names: American Peregrine Falcon, Ledge Hawk, Great Footed Hawk, Rock Hawk, Bullet Hawk.

This is the “noble bird” that was used for hunting (hawking) by the knights of old in the days of chivalry.  And there he was feasting on flesh  on my common wooden fence in Chicago,  Illinois. He was here by invitation actually—the city of Chicago introduced falcons to the city in 1986 to help control the pigeon population and help conservation of a threatened species. They put up accommodating nests  on ledges of high-rise buildings and the falcons recognized the upscale housing opportunities. They  moved in stayed and thereby saved our statues  and our own  heads from pigeon molestation…

Seeing him was a great start to my day. I hope he visits again. Read Chicago peregrine falcon on Google.

About Illinois Artist Laureate Kay Smith

After completing my studies at the School of the Art Institute, I worked as an illustrator. As the 1976 Bicentennial approached there was a fever of interest in American history. In 1971, I was asked to illustrate a book on the American Revolutionary War period which required me to travel to historic locations to paint the actual scenes. As my travels crossed and crisscrossed the paths of the patriots, I entered their lives and was forever caught in the inescapable skeins of history and was thrust into the role of historical painter. What began as a single assignment has grown over the past 40-plus years into the largest collection of American historical-site paintings ever created by a single artist. To see these historical works and to learn more about The American Legacy Collection, please visit my website at: The American Legacy Collection is a dramatic panorama of this country's historical places and its defining moments. My original watercolors chronicle 500 years of the American experience and preserve with an artist's palette our American heritage.

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