Since 1993, when two of the 21 hack-released Peregrine Falcons made their first wild nest in Brandon atop the MacKenzie Seeds Building, the Wheat City has played home to the endangered species every year, and thanks to a mild spring this year, the falcons have returned sooner than usual. Hurricane (female) and Brooklyn (male) have returned for their third year together in Brandon, and at the time of publication have already laid and started incubating three eggs with a fourth expected shortly.
Brooklyn is a third-generation falcon in Brandon, after forcing out his father Zeus and moving in with Hurricane in 2010. In 2010 and 2011, Brooklyn and Hurricane raised a total of four chicks together; losing a few due to extremely rainy and damp weather, but this year is looking to be much easier on newly-hatched chicks.
"Hurricane was hatched in 2007 at the Radisson Hotel in Winnipeg, while Brooklyn was hatched in 2007 at MacKenzie seeds," said Tracy Maconachie, Project Coordinator at the Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project, the group that works in conjunction with CBC to host live streaming video of the nests in Brandon and Winnipeg.
"Last year they laid four eggs together, but only two survived since the wet weather is very hard on chicks. The two survivors, (both males) were named Rain and Rosser, are on our international database so we can track them wherever they may go. We also know that this year there is a Brandon-born falcon named Terminator nesting in Grand Forks, and a few Brandon-birds have started taking up residence in Saskatoon."
While watching the live stream, found at http://www.cbc.ca/manitoba/features/falcon/, viewers will notice the falcons alternating between incubating and hunting, a trait normal in Peregrines.
"Both mother and father incubate and both mother and father hunt," said Maconachie.
"So to tell them apart while watching the stream there are a few characteristics to look for: Hurricane, our female, is larger than Brooklyn, but he is a lot brighter white on the breast and chin, more so than other Peregrines. You can also see that the markings on the left-side of Hurricane's face appear more smudged than on Brooklyn. The markings may not be apparent at first, but after watching the birds for a few days they should stand out more and more."
"Over the years, nature lovers and classrooms from Manitoba and around the world have watched the falcons hatch and witnessed their growth being nurtured until their eventual flight away from the nest," remarked John Bertrand, Managing Director English Radio & Television, CBC Manitoba.
"We are excited to continue to lend eyes and ears, quite literally to this project, resulting in over 4.4 million page views since its inception," he added.
"The day-to-day triumphs and tragedies witnessed on the CBC Falcon Cams of first one, now two, wild peregrine falcon families have helped viewers to understand, in a small way, our impact on the environment, which hopefully helps us from returning to a point of near extinction of a species again," reflected Maconachie.
This year the streams have added a new feature - sound.
"We just added microphones to the cameras this year, so people will be able to listen to the parents communicating with each other," said Maconachie.
"Usually when people think of falcons they imagine the shrieking birds diving from the sky, but when they communicate with each other it is a much softer sound, almost like gentle chirrups. It is a very sweet sound for just a ferocious predator."
While in Brandon, the falcons make life for pigeons in the city a lot more interesting, says Maconachie.
When the chicks are born, the parents often keep a cache of food stored on nearby rooftops. The crow-sized birds have a unique style of hunting; due to their incredible speeds, the Peregrine swoops at other flying birds, reaching speeds of up to 322 km/h, and break the prey's neck with closed talons.
As Peregrines hunt and feed on almost exclusively medium-sized birds, like pigeons and water fowl, Brandon is a great location for the falcons.
"Pigeons are a big part of the diet, especially when chicks are around," said Maconachie.
"They are very plentiful and they actually have a lot of meat on them, which makes for a very nutritious meal for the young ones."
Log on to http://www.cbc.ca/manitoba/features/falcon/ from now until mid July to watch the live CBC Falcon Cam from the downtown Winnipeg nest or the Brandon nest, and watch the baby falcons until the day they fly the coop. Log on to find out more about this species at risk and the efforts being made to preserve the peregrine falcon.
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