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Peregrine Stories of 2017

Report from the Manitoba Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project

written by: T Maconachie, Project Coordinator

photo: Jolicoeur - by Dennis Swayze

Every peregrine nesting season has both happy and sad stories, and 2017 was unfortunately no exception.  The bare facts are that we had eight pairs of adult peregrines and four single birds in southern Manitoba this year.  Of the eight pairs, five nested producing a total of fifteen young all but one of whom fledged successfully.  Not a bad year by the numbers, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

A longer version of the story is that Princess, our long-time female at the Radisson originally from Minneapolis, returned for her thirteenth year and acquired a new mate – Pip, a three-year-old son of Jolicoeur from the Logan territory.  They worked very well together raising three young with ease.  It was nice to see Princess back again, at fifteen years old, she may not return many more times. 

Hurricane, our next oldest nesting female and one of Princess’ daughters, returned to Brandon for her ninth year (her third year with mate Sol).  Hurricane and Sol have not produced many chicks over their years together and this year they had only one.  Not sure if this is part of a trend with this pair or Hurricane’s age (she’s ten) or as a result of a possible territorial dispute with an unbanded female spotted at the nestsite at the beginning of the season.  Any of these possibilities could be the reason for their low productivity.  The only way to know for sure would be for Hurricane to get a new mate and see what happens. 

Our third oldest nesting female is Jolicoeur (Joli), a seven-year-old female from Fargo, North Dakota. She is the star of the Logan territory and mate to Hart from the Radisson.  This was Joli’s and Hart’s fourth year together, and as is in previous years, they produced four rough-and-tumble chicks. Unfortunately, one had to be euthanized due to injuries sustained when she was blown off the nestledge on a very windy day - a fluke accident and our only chick mortality for the year.  

Our fourth nesting pair was four-year-old Faith from Duluth and Ty, the oldest of Princess’ offspring in Winnipeg.  This was their second year together on the West Winnipeg territory and they made raising their four chicks look easy. 

Before moving onto the story of our fifth nesting pair, a brief note about our three non-breeding pairs.  Two of these pairs have been here before.  Russert from Fargo and his unbanded mate, Skander, have nested successfully once in the past few years. This year their behaviour led us to believe that their nest was predated (probably by owls) sometime after incubation began.  It isn’t the first time we suspect this has happened to this pair.  Spencer (daughter of Hurricane) and Loki (son of Princess) have been together for four years, but we have yet to find them with chicks.  The last of our non-breeding pairs was a bit of a May-December romance between Ty’s five-year-old Daer and Elizabeth, Joli’s daughter from 2016.  At only a year old, Elizabeth was too young to nest but she and Daer were pretty devoted to each other which is a hopeful sign for next year.

The fifth and youngest of our nesting pairs was Bristol (daughter of Beatrix) and Sundance (son of Joli), and despite challenging nesting conditions, they managed to produce three chicks.  It was with this pair that the sadder side of this year’s stories begin. 

About three weeks after her chicks hatched, Bristol was found dead near where one of her chicks had gotten separated from its siblings.  We suspect that Bristol may have died defending her chick but we can’t be sure.  Such a loss of potential – Bristol was very much like her mom Beatrix and she would have been a great addition to Manitoba’s breeding population.  We managed to rescue Bristol’s chick unharmed (we named her Bridget in honour of her mother), but we were concerned that trying to return her to the nest could have potentially put her siblings in danger.  And for a single parent, two chicks would be easier for Sundance to provide for/protect, so we decided to foster Bridget with her grandmother Joli and Hart at Logan. 

We chose Logan instead of say with Princess and Pip at the Radisson because the Logan chicks were most similar in size if a wee bit older, and because we knew that Joli and Hart as our most experienced pair could support and protect a fourth chick.  We hadn’t fostered a chick in a wild nest for a number of years and it was marvelous to watch how easily Bridget was adopted into, and thrived with, her foster family. 

A couple of weeks later however we received a report of a dead peregrine on a roof downtown which we assumed was a chick as all the Winnipeg chicks were learning to fly at the time.  When we retrieved the bird we were surprised to find it was Bristol’s brother Beaumont – we hadn’t even known he was back in town!  A second breeding-age bird lost. 

Statistically in the first year, five to seven out of every ten peregrine chicks will die.  After the first year however, the mortality rate drops significantly.  Losing chicks is a sad but expected part of our recovery efforts, but losing breeding adults (or adults old enough to breed) is less expected. For us, two adult deaths in a year is rare. 

They say that tragedies come in threes, and our saddest story of the year came in September after all the chicks and most of the adults had already left town on migration.  Joli was found dead near the Logan nestsite.  In the six years she was our resident female at Logan she produced 19 young and was as perfect a peregrine as one could find.  We won’t know how she died, but it doesn’t really matter. We will miss her greatly next year.

Our single birds make up the final chapter of our 2017 story, and will hopefully become a happier first chapter for 2018.  In September we had three calls about downed/injured peregrines.  Two were unbanded juveniles hatched this year (we don’t know where they are from), and a young adult male named David visiting from Grand Forks. 

David is the son of Terminator from Brandon, who has the resident female in Grand Forks since 2008. David’s injuries were more serious than the two unbanded juveniles, and he isn’t releasable.  The good news is that he has found a home where he should be able to live out a full life with a mate and offspring of his own – some of whom in the future might end up flying wild over Manitoba. 

The two unbanded juveniles have a more optimistic prognosis, and are overwintering in rehab with the hope that they will be released in the spring/summer.  Keeping one of these juveniles company in rehab is Beatrix our former West Winnipeg female (and Bristol’s mom), who was rescued in Texas after a hail storm in March 2016.  Beatrix’s recovery from a persistent foot infection is slow, but she is a tough bird and continues to tolerate being in care. We are hopeful she will be back in the wild soon.

So what will the Spring of 2018 hold?  Really the only thing we know for sure is that every peregrine season has happy stories and sad and that come March, Manitoba’s peregrines will have new stories to tell.