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PEREGRINE FALCONS (Falco peregrinus) AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY

2007 Observations        by Elli Jilek

Before I go on with the 2007 update, I would just like to let you all know that 'Lucy', our injured peregrine from last year, is still in 'rehabilitation' (Edmonton) and a decision will be made by the appropriate persons whether or not she can be released into the wild, or is to be kept as an educational or breeding bird. It may be that she either had or received some neurological damage at the time of her collision last year.

March 30 - My first sighting of the peregrines this year was quite early. One adult, most likely the male, arrived. The male usually checks out the area and then makes sure the nest ledge is vacant, i.e. no geese-a-laying....no date as to when the female joined the male or when mating took place.

As I was away from mid-April until the first week of June, I missed a number of important activities, but had others keeping a careful watch on things for me.

Thanks to Wanda Pedersen, Jean Moore and Rich Moore (no relation)  for being my eyes and ears while I was gone (in Africa).

4 eggs were laid between May 19 and 23rd.

Thursday, June 28th - I have been TRYING very hard to get a handle on how many chicks have hatched, but it's been difficult. Although I also have the co-operation of Campus Security staff, who check with their cameras when I ask, I have only been able to confirm 2 chicks. The parents are usually sitting on the brood, and when not, I am not able to get a look unless I go to the 10th floor of the other bldg, which is impossible to do under 3 minutes tops. By then an adult has returned and is obscuring the view again. Let's hope that all 4 eggs are viable. Sometimes not all eggs hatch - infertility and predatory crows or magpies are also a possibility, as was the case yesterday between one of the falcons and a crow - the falcon dive-bombed the crow when it got too close to the ledge.

I hope that Pat Young (our falcon contact, who is a wildlife biologist with Fish and Wildlife division of Sustainable Resources) will eventually be able to verify the number of chicks. Perhaps someone with a scope can do a better job of seeing what constitutes the 'fluff balls' that I see. I have not been able to make out the various bodies, heads, shapes, etc. Just white fluff balls. The parents are now both leaving the nest exposed for a couple of minutes at a time, especially when one brings the other food, or when they cover for the other's sitting duties. Both are gliding about in front of the nest and then one goes off. So their parental duties are very constant.


Wed. July 4th - Pat is away at the moment, but we will be banding the chicks in a couple of weeks. Hopefully the chicks will
develop well, and as I am watching the parents bringing food regularly and checking up on them constantly, their chances of survival and reaching maturity look good. I went up to the nest area to try and confirm how many hatchlings we had. 4 in all, with one visibly smaller than the others. The chicks are basically just huddled together in a group, staying warm (at least in the mornings), and waiting for mom or dad to come with food. I managed to pick up some wings, bones, egg shells, etc. for further investigation, and assume that the main source of food consist of, as usual, gulls and pigeons.
 

 

 


Wed. July 18th - Banding was done today - attending: Pat Young, John Campbell (a licensed bird bander who has also previously helped out), and myself (banding helper). There were three males and one female...all were healthy and energetic (no lice).  The adults seem to be focusing on Franklin Gulls as the main food source, judging from all the wings left on the ledge (we filled a plastic grocery bag with wings). These 'leftovers' were taken from the nest ledge area, as it gives a good indication of what the birds are feeding on and if  there is enough food being brought to the young. The female chick (the heaviest at almost 1000 grams) was the most vocal and resistant of the four when they were being handled, and the youngest (a male) was visibly quite a bit smaller, so hopefully it will eventually catch up to the others in terms of weight and size. The 2 parents were flying and dive-bombing while the banding was going on - a sign of excellent parenting skills.

 

 

 

 

 Aug. 2-4 - Rich Moore (a falconer who has helped out before) was called out over the weekend to take one of the fledglings back onto the Craigie roof, as it (the female) had ended up on the ground  for a second time. Thanks to Campus Security for taking this one back once before and for being so alert.

Tuesday, Aug. 5th - Just to let everyone know that we had our first flight on Thursday morning (the 2nd), and over the next day or so (apparently), the others followed suit. I had to go out of town, so missed all the 'fun', except for that first flight - which I managed to just miss by about an hr. or so. I DID find this fledgling (see photo) on the Law roof  later that day, which is why I was able to track it down when we lost sight of it later on. I knew the fledglings would choose this weekend to take flight, and as there is always at least one grounding, it was no surprise to hear that the female had to be picked up twice and put back to a safe place. When one of the falcons crash-lands or ends up too low to the ground, we try and take them up to the Craigie Hall roof, so they are out of danger (construction sites and grounds maintenance are the main issues) and can be accessed by the parents to feed them.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Thursday, Aug. 7. I managed to track down 3 of the 4 chicks this morning, so hope to be able to find the 4th somewhere - maybe it is hiding in a corner. As it turned out, the 4th one was the first fledgling to leave the nest - the smallest and youngest of the chicks, who managed somehow to fly onto the nearby Law Library roof, had hidden in a corner where he was difficult to see from either the other bldgs, or by security camera. Luckily (or not), there is construction going on at that same level, and since I had previously talked to the workers about the potential for falcon problems, they kept a vigilant eye out for the birds, and were thus able to let me know that this one had not left the area and was also not being fed regularly. I suspect it was not being fed due to the construction activity and so I went to capture it, along with the help of one of the construction crew and a member of Campus Security. I put it back on top of Craigie Hall - the top roof is a good area for them, as the adults can access them and they have more room on which to fly about and gather strength.

By the next day, it was decided that the chick had not been fed all that day either, and so a falconer brought some food for the fledgling (a quail) and we brought it up to where the bird was sitting, and watched as it first cautiously, then hungrily, fed on the prey. Later that day, I checked in with Campus Security and had them focus their camera on this bird, which had moved towards the edge of the roof, and was flapping its wings. Just as we were talking, it took off, and the camera lost the direction of the bird. I came over both on the following day (Saturday) and Sunday, and was able to eventually track down this youngster. It is a bit smaller and more 'puffy-looking' than the others, (it still has some juvenile fluff visible) and its behaviour indicated to me that it was the youngest. It managed to fly from one roof area to another, albeit the lower ones, but eventually, over the next few days, gathered height and seemed to be doing well.

One of our regular contributors and birders, Jean, managed to see all 6 falcons - here is her report:

Peregrine Diary August long weekend - August 2-6, 2007

Friday, August 3

10 am - Jessica & I went to UofC to check on the young peregrines. Elli had sent a message saying one of the males had fledged on August 2. Couldn’t see the young male on any of the roofs from 10LT. Spoke to a security guard who said the juvenile had been seen on a railing (3' off the ground) on the side of Craigie Hall facing the Arts Parkade. Jessica & I spent an hour searching the area around that spot but came up with nothing. Had to leave at noon so don’t know what has happened to the falcon. An adult was flying around and calling while we were there - trying to lure young off the ledge I imagine. We listened, hoping that the missing fledgling might call, but heard nothing.

Saturday, August 4

Call security at UofC to see if they know anything about the fledged bird, but they know nothing. Wayne and I go over to UofC about 9:30 am. See two juveniles on the ledge and almost immediately see a fledgling on the roof of the Law Library. He moves around a bit but is still there when we leave at 10 am. While waiting for the library to open at 10 am we walk around to the front of the library and spot a second juvenile on the east corner of the Library Tower!! Big relief - all young are accounted for. So sign of adults while we were there. Don’t know where that first fledgling was yesterday morning!!!

Sunday, August 5

Go over to UofC about 9 am. See two juveniles on the roof of Craigie Hall above the nest ledge, but can’t tell if there are any young still on the ledge. Call security and am told that all the young have fledged and that Richard Moore has just rescued the female fledgling who has been down on the ground over night. Meet Richard and Lee, a security guard, who have just put the female back on the nest ledge. She immediately flew off the ledge and is on the roof of the Law Bldg. In the meantime one of the male fledglings has flown back onto the ledge.


Watch the falcons until 11:30 - two of the young males are very good flyers. When I leave, one of the male fledglings is on the roof of the LT, one on the SW roof of SS, the third is still on the nest ledge and the female is still on the roof of the Law Bldg. She looks pretty pooped out and has been lying down almost all the time since the rescue. Both the adults were on campus when I left (one on the antenna on the LT roof and the other on and off the face of SS), but saw no sign of feeding. Hope they get some food to the female fledgling soon as she must be very hungry.

3:45 pm Make a run over to check on the fledglings before we go out to the BBQ. The female is still on the Law bldg and the male is still on the nest ledge. One of the adults is on the LT antenna. The other two male fledglings are on the LT roof and the roof of Craigie Hall.

5:30 pm Get a call from security that one of the fledglings is down on the ground on the road in front of the nest ledge. Go over to keep an eye on it until a security guard from Foothills Hospital can get over to pick it up. The female is still on the Law bldg roof and the male that was on the ledge is no longer there so think it must be him on the ground. The fledgling is very blasť walking along the sidewalk. The security guards show up right away. Have never seen as smooth a pickup as made by the guard (Jonathan, I think). The bird is taken up to the Craigie Hall roof and released on the roof above the ledge. Jonathon says he is a farm boy and has bundled lots of turkeys in his day. The adult on the LT roof is having a fit while the security guards are on the roof - much calling and flying around them. See the released bird on the edge of the Craigie Hall roof when I leave. Jonathan says that the rescued bird has very raspy breathing.

Monday August 6

Wayne & I go over to UofC about 3 pm. See three juveniles on the Craigie Hall roof above the ledge (sitting on the vertical wooden strips across from the Parkade). One of the fledglings moves over onto the roof and we see feathers flying as it pecks at a prey bird. Walk around to check the usual spots for the young peregrines but can’t find the 4th juvenile, but he may be on the LT roof if he is the very good flyer. An adult is on the LT antenna.

Tuesday August 7

8 pm - Drive around UofC but find no fledglings anywhere. An adult is on the LT antenna.
 

Friday, Aug. 15th. Fish and Wildlife were called when it was discovered that 3 falcons had somehow ended up in a pigeon trap which had been placed on top of the Math Sciences bldg., which is one of the preferred locations for the falcons. The three birds (incl. the youngest) were released unharmed, and were soon flying about again. This is also a location that is now home to one of two newly constructed nest boxes, as Craigie Hall may be transformed by construction in the next year. There needs to be an alternative site for the falcons should their Craigie Hall nest ledge not be accessible for next year's breeding season, so two large green boxes have been supplied by the university. These were affixed to Math Sciences and the ICT bldgs. the last  week of July, both facing south - on the top roofs. The pigeon trap has been temporarily closed off until the falcons leave campus, and then we'll see if there can be some adjustments made so the trap does not catch falcons. The trap is to keep out feathers, bird droppings, and debris from coming into the ventilation system.

A wrap-up of this year's peregrine season will soon follow - so far all four are assumed to be doing well, with no additional reports of accidents by the birds. For best viewing while they are still on campus, try looking at the Library Tower roofs, the communication tower on top of this bldg, or the following roofs: Education Tower, ICT bldg, Math Sciences, Social Sciences and Craigie Hall. You can still hear one or more falcons before you see them: the young still call for food, and they also get excited when seeing another falcon (sibling or parent) flying close by.

The last of the falcons (presumably adults) was seen about the third week of Sept. It appeared that the youngest fledgling managed to leave eventually and made a successful departure from campus, as we have not heard anything more about this one. Until we get sightings, band readings, or discoveries of fallen falcons, we must assume that all is well and that all falcons have left for warmer climes.

There is a project being undertaken that has several peregrines (mainly from Edmonton) equipped with miniature tracking devices, so that their migratory routes, timeframes, distances and eventual return to Alberta can be followed and studied. 'Our' peregrines have been traced, according to band readings, as far away as Columbia, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Let's wish them a safe and successful journey.

 

(Photos provided by Steve, Aaron, Linda, Pat and Elli)

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