BOISE — A new children’s book tells an exciting real-life story about the lives of Boise’s peregrine falcons. “Fledge On A Ledge: An Urban Falcon Story,” by first-time author Doug Chapman, is a beautifully illustrated poem that narrates a tense moment when a little falcon chick fell from its nest in front of the eyes of thousands of people watching it via livestream.
Peregrine falcons are charismatic birds of prey that are famous for reaching speeds of over 200 mph while hunting. They were brought back from the brink of extinction in 1999, after the widespread use of the insecticide DDT was thinning the shells of their eggs, causing them to break when the female sat on them to incubate.
A nest box installed for the birds on a ledge in the 14th floor of the One Capital Center building, at 10th and Main streets in Downtown Boise, started to be used in 2003. The location simulates the cliffs in which falcons usually nest in nature.
Chapman’s life and that of the peregrine falcons crossed paths back then, when the Peregrine Fund asked his then-employer, Fiberpipe Data Centers, to manage the livestream of a camera installed in the nest box that would monitor the falcons’ activity.
“We had the camera up for nine years before I left the company, and for literally every minute of every day that the camera was active, I was monitoring it,” Chapman said in an interview.
The events in the book were inspired when one of the chicks fell from the nest and was stuck on one of the building’s ledges in 2010.
“It happens all the time,” Chapman said. Falcon chicks are so light that they can survive the 14-story fall without getting hurt, “but they don’t have any way of getting back up.” So when falcons are nesting, “they put up signs all around the bottom of the building with a phone number to call if you find one of these little chicks.”
When the chick fell, “we had thousands of people around the world watching this happen, and everybody freaked out,” he recalls. As a consequence, the Peregrine Fund and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game got flooded with calls and decided to rescue the bird. They went to the building and put the bird back in the box, and the story had a happy ending.
Shortly after, Chapman wrote a poem about the incident. It was forgotten until 2017, when his friends encouraged him to publish it, and two years later the book was published.
The book was illustrated by the art department of the publishing house, Covenant Books, including familiar views of Boise’s historic downtown architecture and the city’s foothills. Although the book is designed for kids, Chapman thinks it’s an exciting story that can also be enjoyed by adults. You can find the book in bookstores or in eReader format.
Chapman is seeking permission from the building owners to activate the camera once again. In the meantime, you can peek into the intimate lives of other birds around the world by checking the Cornell Lab Bird Cams website.
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