Banding the Peregrine Falcon Chicks

(Photo above: Whitehern is held during banding by Mark of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. Credit: Hamilton FalconWatch)

As noted last month, on March 18, we caught a glimpse of the first egg of this year from our peregrine falcons, Lilly and Ozzie. It is their sixth nesting season at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. Although there were four eggs, only two hatched. On the evening of April 28 the first chick hatched, followed by the second one the next morning.

Griffin is placed back in the nest by John, who has been the person who repels from the mechanical room roof of the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel down to the lower roof where the nest is each time we have had chicks over the past 26 years. (Photo: Hamilton FalconWatch)

On Saturday, May 16, we were successful in banding the chicks, and followed government guidelines with a limited number of people on hand to assist. Due to their development, the banding must be done when the chicks are at least 18 days old, but not older than 28 days.

The 19-day-old female chick weighed 720 grams and was named Whitehern. She was banded Z47 (USFW band 1947-19814) and given red tape for easier identification. Griffin, the male born on April 29, was tagged with yellow tape. He was 517 grams and banded 15Aw (USFW band 1156-06847). Each year the chicks are named after different Hamilton themes. In 2018, they were all named after parks, such as Gage and Lawrence. This year they were named after local museums. During the banding they had a health check and were declared to be very healthy.

Banding is extremely important for several reasons:

  • It allows the chicks to be checked for health problems. For example, their tongues are checked for proper colouring. When taken from the nest they are pink, but the end turns white with stress. This shows proper neurological function in the chicks.
  • It is the cheapest, easiest, and most effective way to track the birds through migration and their dispersal during their lives. This helps track their mortality rates and gives data on the causes of their deaths. They are no longer an endangered species, but they are listed as a species at risk.
  • It provides protection for Canadian peregrine falcons when they fly to the USA, where it is legal to trap and harvest peregrine falcons in 21 states with a permit. This is not to kill them, but for falconry purposes. This law was challenged. Although they failed to have the law changed, an exception was made with respect to the colour marker bands placed on the chicks — if they are captured and have a specific band colour, they must be released. Canadian peregrine falcons have a black band.

Based on typical development, we are looking at first flight to be during the first week of June. The HNC has approved the hiring of coordinators to watch the chicks as they develop from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. However, with the government regulations due to COVID-19, as of right now there will be no volunteer assistance unless restrictions are lifted. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or would like more information, please email Christa at christasanders43@hotmail.com

You can follow along on our Facebook page or watch the live cam at falcons.hamiltonnature.org.

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