Labrador wild -
In early October we became surrogate parents to yet another of Labrador's feathered friends. Brenda Hickey had observed a type of "Hawk" apparently in distress near their slab pile at there business property on Broomfield Street. Conservation Officer Ford Taylor responded and in no time expertly freed the bird from its confines, and delivered it in a box to my office.
The bird was favoring its wing and it was feared that it may have been broken. A quick observation of the raptor revealed that in fact it was a juvenile or Hatch Year (born this year) male Peregrine Falcon! Fortunately, when examined by provincial veterinarians, it was determined that the wing was not broken but the falcon was favoring the wing due to some bruising and a few smaller feathers missing from its tip (Alula).
Over the years, we have been caretakers for various bird species and we successful at rehabilitating two Osprey, one of which we released back into the wild. It is often difficult to properly care for birds, which are generally fragile, wild animals and often become stressed while held in captivity. In many cases, despite peoples best efforts and intentions, many wild animals that are injured or apparently abandoned, don't survive. In the case of smaller passerine (song birds) most "rescued" birds are chicks that have fallen from their nest or are learning to fly. These should be left alone as the mother will still feed them where they are. This was in fact the case with a juvenile American Kestrel in Goose Bay this summer that successfully fledged where he was discovered.
Our Peregrine Falcon was picked up on a Monday, but I suspect that it was the same bird that was observed by local birder Keith Oram near the Broomfield Arena on Friday, two days earlier. The Peregrine was noticeably small, indicating that it was a male. In Peregrines, as with many other raptors (birds of prey) the male is considerably smaller than the female. Male Peregrines typically weigh around 600 g while females can weigh over a kilogram.
Our first task, once we determined that the Peregrine (now named Pete by our children) wasn't seriously injured, was to provide nourishment and water in case it may have become dehydrated. Using a plastic pipette, we provided water directly into Pete's beak and he took some the first day. This was encouraging so we next turned to food. I thawed out some caribou and cut it into thin strips and weighed about 80 g to feed "Pete". Using long forceps, Pete consumed his caribou meal in short order. We determined that an adult Peregrine in the wild would consume about 100g of food a day so we aimed to give him about 150g as he was still a growing bird and likely recovering from a brief period of starvation. In the days to come, Pete consumed caribou meat, feathered birds including a Common Snipe and a Leaches Storm Petrel I had in the freezer, along with a Rock Dove that was brought to us from another bird enthusiast.
After a week of feeding our Peregrine's wing had gained strength and he was holding it more upright. During his captivity though, he lost one of his primary feathers and as the season was getting too late for him to migrate from Labrador. We decided to ship him to the Salmonair Nature Park, where he currently resides and continues to recover and hopefully be successfully released into the wild again.
As Peregrine Falcons are listed as a threatened species in Newfoundland and Labrador, promoting the recovery of even a single bird aids the population on its way to recovery.
Tony Chubbs is a Wildlife Biologist, Naturalist, avid Sportsman and Outdoors Writer and resides in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org