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  1. Are the falcons killing the song birds in my neighbourhood?

Are the Peregrine Falcons killing the song birds in my neighbourhood?
Each year, our falcons are repeatedly accused of killing song birds in the area. They do Not, we repeat, DO NOT feed on songbirds. Once again in the year 2000, a local resident wrote to the paper "thanking" the city for hosting the peregrines as the author mistakenly thought that they were killing the song birds in his area. What follows is Ken's reply to the author trying to clarify this popular misconception

Wed Aug 2, 2000 there was a letter to editor in the Leader Post in which the peregrines are accused of killing the robins and other song birds in the city. This tongue in cheek "thankyou to the City of Regina" is a comment by an ill informed person who needs to be given the facts.

For the record - I am the volunteer coordinator of the Falcon project and the city was not instrumental in bringing the peregrine to the city. The City is a late comer to the project. The peregrines choose to nest on city hall of their own free will. No one makes them or has any control of where they nest - except maybe Mother Nature.

There are now only 2 adults and 3 young of this years hatch in the city. (One of this years young died already - we expect to lose 9 of 10 young between hatching and maturity at age 3.) There is next to no chance we will ever have more than one breeding pair in the city. They are very territorial and every year are seen to drive off new comers. In other cities- notable Calgary in past years - when a second pair tried to nest in that city and refused to be driven off - a battle to the death ensued and the new comers were killed by the residents.

The culprit is a cousin that no one introduced - they have been here all along and just recently their numbers have increased drastically. That cousin is the MERLIN FALCON. Merlins are smaller, about the size of a crow. Peregrines are twice that size. Merlins are grey brown, Peregrines are blue black. Merlins have a long tail, Peregrines have a rather stubby tail. The tail of the Merlin is it's rudder which allows it to chase small birds in the trees and turn corners well. This, the peregrine can not do. The Merlin nests in old crow's nests or magpie nests in evergreen trees and poplars or maples. The Peregrine nests on the ground, or in a scrape in the gravel of a roof, or on an office tower such as city hall. We have placed a sand box on several building for the peregrines and they continue to use city hall. Peregrines can not close their talons on anything smaller than a broomstick and Merlins can close theirs on a toothpick. The peregrine will not likely be seen in a tree or on a wire or a light post. Merlins are very likely to be seen in these places. The Merlin specializes in hunting small birds such as the robin and sparrow and only rarely takes anything as large as pigeon and then only if it is very sick and disabled. The peregrine hunts in the open taking birds the size of mallard ducks, pigeons and coots or mud hens, never hunting in the treed areas of our residential suburbs. It hunts over the lake, in the downtown it dives on its prey from a high perch provided by the tallest buildings in the city.


Ken Holliday - volunteer coordinator Regina Peregrine falcon project.

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