University of Michigan's Burton Tower to undergo renovations, with special attention to falcons that perch there
Burton Tower - perhaps Ann Arbor's most recognizable landmark - will soon see $1.6 million in renovations, including repairs to stonework and to the metal framework supporting the 53-bell carillon in the tower.
The tower, built in 1936, is also home to a pair of peregrine falcons, which have stood watch over past renovations, hardly bothered by the presence of workers, a U-M bird expert said.
AnnArbor.com | File photo
The last time the tower saw repairs was 2008, when crews fixed cracking and falling limestone. The building houses classrooms and offices for the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, as well as the Charles Baird Carillon.
"In previous years when they've worked, the falcons haven't seemed concerned at all and continued to perch," said Janet Hinshaw, the bird division collection manager for the U-M Museum of Zoology. "It's not going to bother them that they're working on the tower."
The renovations, approved by the U-M Board of Regents Thursday, are slated to begin in August. From then until work wraps up in the summer of 2011, the carillon will not be played.
Hinshaw has a good view of Burton Tower from her office and has watched the falcons since they were first spotted in March 2006, the last time officials stopped the carillon bells temporarily.
Over the last few years, the birds have started to hang around a number tall buildings in addition to the 192-foot Burton Tower, including the U-M Hospital and Ann Arbor VA hospital.
At Burton Tower, they like to perch on the top ledges of the tower, just under the roof. Traditionally, the species nested on cliffs, but since being re-introduced to city settings in the '60s and '70s following a stint on the endangered species list, they've taken up residence on tall buildings.
In 2007, a young male peregrine was observed on U-M's campus in Ann Arbor, but he was run out of town by the pair. Peregrines are territorial - a city is typically only big enough for one couple, Hinshaw said.
So far, the birds haven't had success building a nest on Burton Tower, though they may have tried. Hinshaw found a broken egg at the base of the tower in the spring, which was the first evidence she's seen of nesting.
"We're not sure what happened with the egg," she said. "It didn't hatch - there was egg yolk and stuff with it. They apparently tried but at least were partly unsuccessful. I've not seen an indication that they have chicks."
The Department of Natural Resources may have plans to build a nesting platform on a hospital building to lure the birds away from the construction, she said. It would also allow wildlife officials a better opportunity to observe the falcons. To get into the upper levels of the tower, crews have to wear climbing equipment and scale ladders.