Peregrine Falcon Watch

by Chris Traynor
Photo of Rowena a female Peregrine breeding in the Ottawa area


I’ve been asked numerous times over the last few years about the status of the OFNC Falcon Watch, so perhaps it is time for an update.

The OFNC Falcon Watch started in 1997 when Ottawa’s first nest of Peregrine Falcons was discovered on the former Citadel Inn at Lyon and Albert streets. For the next decade, our local falcons succeeded in raising many chicks to adulthood.

In 2009, two chicks managed to fledge but this would be the last year that any eggs from this nest site hatched. Annual nest checks showed that the pair was producing eggs but none of them were hatching. Many of us suspected that toxins in the environment were causing problems with the eggs. There also appeared to be some evidence that local pigeons were being poisoned. As pigeons are a common prey item for peregrines, it seemed logical to conclude that this was another possible cause of the falcon’s inability to hatch a good egg.

To complicate matters for us, several years ago the Falcon Watch lost its roof access to adjacent buildings to monitor the nest, making it difficult to check on the falcons. However, peregrines are quite noisy around the nest, especially when they have chicks, so we’re quite confident that they have not had a successful nesting without our knowing about it.

In 2012, after another unsuccessful nest attempt downtown, it was discovered that another pair of peregrines was nesting on the Taxation Data Centre building on Heron Road. This was exciting news! There was speculation at the time that the pair may have also nested in the previous year, but details were sketchy. Since the downtown watch was now more or less defunct, we decided to switch our limited volunteer time to the Data Centre pair. In 2012, the falcons, now named Rowena and Ivanhoe, fledged two birds and, in 2013, one. A good bounce-back year in 2014 saw them raise three more chicks. Since they’ve been at the Heron Road nest site for at least six years and they’ve raised a dozen chicks without any of them needing rescue, we came to the conclusion that our rescue efforts, which had been vital downtown, were not needed at this location. This particular location has the advantage of being rather isolated in terms of other nearby buildings, so when a young falcon takes its first flight it has few options other than to turn around and try and land on the same building it took off from. This would appear to be an easier task than negotiating the tunnels of glass towers downtown where there were too many options available. The first flights of many a young falcon ended in tragedy when they could not tell a glass façade from the sky.

Happily, the Heron Road location seems to be ideally suited for peregrine nesting. It has a nest ledge that is sheltered from extreme weather and long, wide ledges for testing out the wings before first flight. Those of us who still go to observe the young birds have seen some remarkable first flights, and we look forward to many more. I would encourage OFNC members to go and visit this site anytime to watch these amazing birds.

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Heron Rd.: Ivanhoe and Rowena hatch two female chicks and one male. Clover, Clementine and Luìs all fledge successfully.

Downtown: Diana and Janus do not produce chicks.

Heron Rd.: Ivanhoe and Rowena hatch one male chick. Pringle, named in honour of longtime OFNC member Gordon Pringle, who passed away that year, fledges successfully.

Downtown: Diana and her new mate, Janus, incubate eggs but fail to produce chicks.

Downtown: Diana incubates four eggs but, for the third year in a row, none hatch. Connor disappears in late April or early May, and is thought to have perished. A new male shows up during the summer.

Heron Rd.: A new nest has been discovered on Heron Rd. While one chick is found dead shortly after hatching, and another shortly before fledging, two others survive. The adults are named Ivanhoe and Rowena, the young male Data and the young female Amber.

Two eggs. None hatch.

Diana broods more than three months non-stop, first incubating three eggs, then adding another to the clutch after five weeks. None hatch.

Three eggs, two hatch. Nihei (♀) and Tailer (♂) fledge successfully, but Nihei is found in Quebec in September. She is severely injured and dies.

Three eggs, two hatch. Gatsby (♂) and Daisy (♀) fledge successfully.

Two eggs, one hatches. Skylar (♂) fledges successfully.

New female, Diana, breeds with Connor. Two eggs, one hatches. Odyssey (♂) fledges successfully.

Four eggs, two hatch. Littlefoot (♂) and Storm (♀) initially fledge successfully, but Littlefoot disappears during the fledging period. It is unknown whether he died or got lost and went on migration. Mother Horizon dies following an accident caused by high winds.

Three eggs, two hatch. Zanar (♀) and Senator (♀) fledge successfully. Zanar nests at the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge beginning in 2010.

Three eggs, one hatches. Solitaire (♀) fledges successfully.

Four eggs, one hatches. Summit (♀) is joined by Canadian Peregrine Foundation foster chicks Swift (♂) and Grisou (♂). Summit and Swift fledge successfully; Grisou has health problems and does not survive.

Three eggs, one hatches. Quest (♂) is joined by Bailey (♂), a foster chick from the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. Both chicks die after they slip from their perch before they are ready to fly, and hit a nearby building.

Four eggs, three hatch. Freedom (♂) and Zephyr (♂) fledge successfully, but Windracer (♂) hits a building and does not survive. Zephyr is found dead of starvation a month later.

Four eggs, none hatch. Three foster chicks from the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, Loft (♂), Preston (♂) and Jessie (♀), fledge successfully.

Horizon gets a new mate, Connor, also of unknown origin. Three eggs, two hatch. Pippin (♂) fledges successfully. Jo-Jo (♀) dies after flying into the C.D. Howe Building. Ribbons are later installed on the building, a safety precaution that’s now repeated every year.

Two Peregrine Falcons nest at the Citadel Inn, which became the Crowne Plaza and is now the Delta Ottawa City Centre. The female, Horizon, hatched in Montreal in 1996. The male’s origins are unknown. Their single egg hatches. Allison (♀) flies into the C.D. Howe Building (240 Sparks St.) and does not survive.