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More on What is Happening Out at Parkland Mews...

New Captive Breeding Facility for Peregrine Falcons

March 17,2004 (St Patrick’s Day) marked a special event for Parkland Mews. On that day two pairs of Peregrines were moved into their new home as part of the ongoing recovery program for the Peregrine Falcon in Manitoba.

Planning for the new facility began almost two years ago. The new captive breeding facility contains many of the features we have come to rely on from our previous experience. Rather than settle for the simple oblong barn structures so often associated with falcon breeding, we opted for a more complex hexagonal shape for each pen. The hexagonal shape allows the Peregrines to fly in an uninterrupted circular pattern increasing the opportunity for physical fitness, as well as for a wider range of courtship rituals associated with Peregrine breeding behaviour. Despite the extra costs associated with the shape of the pens, the anticipated benefits justified the additional investment. Having settled on a design we were able to formulate a budget based on cost estimates and then began the process of fund raising. A number of proposals were sent out to various agencies, including provincial, city and corporate as well as to environmental organizations detailing the plan and requesting funds. The responses were varied and there were the inevitable delays and postponements. By November of 2003 sufficient funding was in place to proceed with the project.

A few weeks later all the necessary permits and approvals were authorized. Manitoba Hydro installed Hydro poles as vertical supports for the structure and ran power some three hundred and eighty five metres from the nearest power source to the site. By early January both a project manager and a contractor were ready to begin work just in time for the sudden drop in temperatures and heavy snowfalls.

The building itself comprises of seven hexagonal flight pens with twelve-foot high walls, partly enclosed wooden roofed area separated by an area of wire-meshed roofing. The floors are covered with pea gravel. Each enclosure is approximately 290 square feet. Other features include heated corridors and a 250 square foot service block. The internal walls are sheeted with plywood and the exterior walls are covered with metal cladding. Total project costs are approximately $100,000.00 and this has been met through both direct funding and in-kind support.

Given the severity of the winter there were anticipated delays and while some things have been put on hold until after the breeding season, the building is fully operational.

In the fall of 2003 we switched around individual birds to form new breeding pairs based on our observations during the 2003 breeding season. One of the challenges we face is the prevention of our birds succumbing to the West Nile Virus. To prevent this from occurring we kept our Peregrines in facilities that were fully enclosed, including glass over the barred windows. What naturally stimulates hormonal development in birds are 1) Day length which requires a certain level of light intensity and 2) Cirannual rhythm where daylight length and light intensity progressively increase and decrease. An essential vitamin produced by direct sunlight (vitamin D3) was filtered out by the glass coupled with the solid roof the inside of the enclosures probably prevented the birds from experiencing enough natural effects of the cirannual rhythm. While we prevented the Peregrines from being infected with West Nile we were unable to facilitate their breeding. It is anticipated appropriate screening in the new facility will overcome this problem.

All of the Peregrines are pure Canadian anatum stock derived from original birds brought into captivity by the Canadian Wildlife Service. Four birds were purchased in 2000 and a fifth bird in 2001. Typically Peregrines breed in either their second or third year for the first time. Like humans they need to be compatible with one another if they are to get along. Sometimes fatalities occur when the larger females kill the smaller males if the pairs are not compatible. Given the behaviour of the birds to date we do not anticipate problems of this sort. The pairings are as follows.

Hatch Date
Tiercel (M)
11 June 2000
Falcon (F)
26 May 2000
Tiercel (M)
06 June.2000
Falcon (F)
12 June 2001

Finally a very conservative and cautious approach is being taken in an effort to minimize disturbance to the birds. For the most part observations of behaviour will only be taken during feeding time once a day. For this reason incubation dates or hatch dates may not be certain. However that is a small price to pay in order to establish breeding pairs at Parkland Mews.

Click here to see Photos of the Flight Pens in construction phase
And with the Peregrine Falcons in there NEW home for the first time!