At least one of three young falcons who started life in Redwater in June will be sticking around Alberta this winter while the rest of the family heads south.
The peregrine falcon family—Bill, Charlotte and their three newly hatched chicks—were the stars of Nutrien Redwater’s popular falcon camera program this spring and summer. Nutrien is the site of one of six live-streaming falcon cameras brought to viewers by the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), a nonprofit group that aims to protect fish and wildlife populations in the province.
In mid-July, biologists took two of Charlotte's young out of the on-camera nesting box after the birds started showing signs of illness. One of the chicks was put back in the nest after getting better, but biologists decided to continue raising its sibling at a rural breeding facility.
When they get a bit older, birds taken from nesting boxes are freed into release boxes along the Pembina River, where they're trained in hunting and flying by a pair of adult peregrines who live in the area.
ACA communications editor Kelley Stark said that the river site gives young peregrines more open space, free of buildings and traffic, for learning how to fly. Male peregrines, Stark said, tend to return to the places they first spread their wings.
“And we prefer that they nest somewhere out in the country. They're not really made to nest in buildings in the city.”
The Nutrien camera went temporarily offline in August, but biologists still kept close watch on Bill and Charlotte and remaining chicks B-73 and B-88.
B-88 was still sporting quite a few baby feathers when the time came to fledge.
“Of course they need their adult feathers to fly,” Stark said. "So he ended up being spotted on the ground and he was not in very good shape.”
The ground crew at Nutrien and a peregrine biologist came to B-88’s rescue. Like his former nest mate, B-88 is now enjoying his youth in the safety of an offsite location.
“They'll probably keep B-88 here for the winter, kind of raise him, and then he can fly back to South America next winter," Stark said.
Meanwhile B-73 has been busy off camera learning how to hunt and navigate the skies ahead of the return south. Edmonton-area peregrines will leave town later this fall, likely taking off for Brazil or Columbia.
"They winter there and then for some reason they come back to Edmonton," Stark said with a laugh.
Stark expects that Bill and Charlotte will be back in Redwater by late March or April, ready to raise some new young for their fans.
The falcon cameras are part of the ACA's educational outreach program. Peregrine falcons, once facing extinction throughout their range due to widespread pesticide use, remain an at risk species in Alberta. There are about 50-60 breeding pairs of peregrines in the province according to data from the Government of Alberta.