Safe Wings meets the Falcon Watch

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By Anouk Hoedeman

My bird rescue interests converged nicely last week when a man contacted the OFNC Falcon Watch for help with an injured Peregrine Falcon that he and his son had found and captured near the Madawaska River in Arnprior. Apparently it couldn’t fly, so they suspected a broken wing, and the son caught the falcon by tossing his hoodie over it.

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I advised him on how to care for the raptor overnight until he could get it to the Wild Bird Care Centre (keep it in a secure box, in a dark and quiet place, feed it some raw chicken and leave it alone as much as possible).

It turns out the Peregrine, a beautiful, dark male, had injuries consistent with a window collision! Luckily, beyond being stunned, some abrasions and a bit of a bloody beak, he wasn’t badly hurt and just needed a few days to rest and recover. Many injured birds are emaciated and dehydrated by the time they’re rescued, but this guy was well-fed, strong and alert.

We haven’t had a chance to band Peregrines in Ottawa in several years, so it was worth the effort required  to find a bander with the required permits: Marcel Gahbauer.

Yesterday, fellow Falcon Watcher Chris Traynor and I met Marcel at the Wild Bird Care Centre, where Patty McLaughlin and her colleagues were taking excellent care of the raptor and feeding him lots of fresh chicken. Marcel and Patty weighed him, measured his wings, determined he was a third-year bird, and banded him on both legs. These coloured bands with unique codes allow scientists to report back if the bird if ever sighted, recaptured or found dead. It also protects Peregrines from being “collected” by falconers — that is, people who take raptors from the wild are not allowed to take a Peregrine that has leg bands.

After admiring our new friend, Chris, Marcel, WBCC volunteer Jeremy Plante and I drove out to Arnprior with the raptor in one of the Falcon Watch’s rarely used plywood rescue boxes to release him near where he was found. The release didn’t take long, but it was exhilarating. Chris barely had time to lift the lid before the Peregrine shot out, touched down briefly in the snow and flew south before looping back and landing high in a tree. There, he stretched his wings, fanned his tail and took a few minuted to get his bearings before flying away and out of sight. 

So if you ever see a Peregrine Falcon near Arnprior, please check for a leg band, note the number and let us know!

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