Chalk up some more notoriety for Marilyn Hagerty.
This time, it’s a peregrine falcon chick.
The longtime Herald columnist, who had a Grand Forks lift station named after her in 2002 and triggered an Internet frenzy in 2012, when her review of the Olive Garden restaurant went viral, on Monday had a baby peregrine falcon named in her honor.
Grand Forks raptor expert Tim Driscoll named one of the four chicks hatched this spring atop the UND water tower after Hagerty. Driscoll and other banders routinely name the birds, saying it’s easier to remember names than band numbers.
Hagerty, who recently turned 90, wasn’t on hand for Monday’s banding event but was enjoying the hoopla of having a peregrine chick named after her.
Driscoll called Hagerty on Sunday to ask if she’d be OK with it.
“I just think that’s the funniest thing–crazy, crazy,” Hagerty said. “I had the lift station, and then I went viral, but I never in my wildest dreams would think of having a falcon named after me. It’s quite overwhelming–it’s a lot of fun.”
Upwards of 60 people turned out below the water tower Monday afternoon to watch Driscoll band the chicks after climbers Cory Floden and Nate Reitan scaled the 150-foot structure to retrieve the four birds.
Hagerty’s son, Bob, a writer for the Wall Street Journal back in Grand Forks for a visit, attended the banding event with his wife, Lorraine.
“They even brought me some feathers from Marilyn,” the Herald columnist said.
The chicks are offspring of Terminator, the matriarch of Grand Forks’ peregrine falcon population who has produced chicks every year since 2008, the first year she nested on the old Smiley water tower. Hatched in 2006 in Brandon, Man., Terminator the past three years has mated with Marv, a male hatched in 2013 in Fargo who showed up in Grand Forks in the summer of 2014.
Marv is named after Marv Bossart, a longtime Fargo broadcaster who died in 2013.
Driscoll on Monday named the other three chicks–all males–David, Clifton and Ali.
David is named after local birder David Lambeth; Clifton after Clifton “Cliff” Cushman, the Central High School track star and Olympic athlete whose plane went down in 1966 over Vietnam; and Ali after Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxer and social activist who died last week.
But as the biggest–and, arguably, loudest–of the very vocal peregrine chicks, it was Marilyn who drew the most applause Monday afternoon when Driscoll announced her name.
Female peregrines are larger than their male counterparts.
“I feel a little bit guilty naming them, but not so guilty I’m going to stop doing it,” Driscoll said.
Mona Leake, Grand Forks, who came out to see the peregrines with her 4-year-old granddaughter, Ivy Sondrol, said the banding event is a great way for people to see firsthand the kind of wildlife available locally.
Her granddaughter, she said, enjoys birds of all kinds.
“She identifies birds from the yard,” Leake said. “She’s going to be a birder, I think. She loves it.”
Driscoll said the peregrine chicks, which were returned to their nest box after they were banded, are about 24 days old. They’ll stay in the nest box for a couple more weeks, at which time they’ll remain in the area until striking out on their own later this summer.
The peregrine falcon recovery is one of the great success stories in the bird world. Nearly wiped out in the 1950s and 1960s, the species began a comeback after the elimination of DDT, a pesticide that weakened eggshells and prevented hatching.
The peregrine falcon in 1999 was removed from the federal endangered species list.
Peregrines are the world’s fastest raptor. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the falcons can achieve speeds in excess of 200 mph when in pursuit of prey. The birds historically nested on cliff ledges, but peregrines have adapted to urban settings and nest on buildings, bridges and other tall structures such as the UND water tower.
Grand Forks and Fargo have North Dakota’s only known nesting peregrines, while Minnesota today has more than 50 nesting pairs, the DNR said.
Chances are there’s only one Marilyn, though.
“It’s just one of those strange things that happen when you live long enough,” Hagerty said.