Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
As long as suitable breeding sites are available, the peregrine falcon nests across Canada.

Did you know?

A peregrine falcon regularly returns to the same nesting site — one nest in England has been used by falcon pairs since at least 1243.

Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
Average weight: 650 g (male)
980 g (female)
Average length: 38 cm–50 cm (female larger)
Average wingspan: 1 m
Average lifespan: 5 years
A peregrine falcon momentarily at rest.

Canadian Geographic articles

The slow comeback of our peregrine falcons

By Lyn Hancock
June/July 1978

Lyn Hancock, the author of several wildlife articles and books, questions whether the peregrine falcon will survive. While the species has been historically stable, Hancock notes that there has been an unprecedented decline worldwide since the Second World War, especially in Europe and North America. The only ones that remained largely stable were the birds in the Pacific maritime.

In this article, the author talks about the characteristics of the peregrines; for example, their flight and why they can fly at such great speeds, how they hunt their prey, their nesting places, feeding skills, breeding, egg-laying and incubation.

Hancock discusses conservation efforts, and calls for more research on such important issues as methods to pair compatible birds and techniques of feeding peregrines pesticide-free food. The article also has some positive stories about individual Canadians who were successful in breeding peregrines in captivity during the late 1960s and through the 1970s.

Welcome back, peregrines!

By Lynn Davies
June/July 1987

In this article, Davies profiles the efforts over the preceding 20 or so years toward saving the peregrine falcon, especially the endangered subspecies anatum.

In 1970, a joint Canadian-American study predicted that the peregrine would disappear from North America by the end of the decade. That same year, not one nesting pair was found in southern Ontario and only one was found in Alberta. This article sites DDT as the culprit and describes how it was passed down to the peregrines through the food chain.

To help replenish the birds, biologist Richard Fyfe established a breeding population for eventual release into the environment. The author follows Fyfe’s his early experimental work. Despite the fact that it was feared too much human contact would destroy their hunting instincts and the birds wouldn’t survive their release, Fyfe’s birds would become the beginning of the Wainwright breeding stock.

Davies describes the two ways the fledglings are released, hacking and fostering, and why the latter, used mostly in northern and western Canada, is the better way. The article includes the success rate of the releasing program and the birds’ survival, and the possible reasons why the peregrines seem to have a better recovery rate in Eastern Canada than in the West. The biggest problem for biologists is the high mortality rate of the fledglings; Davies talks about the dangers they encounter during their tricky first few days of flying.

The release program also attracted the interest of provincial and private groups across the country. The national program is more difficult to evaluate; however, when approved, it will be the first a national scale in Canada for an extirpated species.

Fyfe is convinced that the peregrine will eventually make a complete comeback at different times across Canada, with the eastern birds having a better chance than the western ones.

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