The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Project Foster

Occasionally Peregrine Falcons fail to produce fertile eggs.  This can be due to contaminants in the environment, climatic conditions, or other factors.  The goal of Project Foster is to intervene in such situations by providing the nesting pair with foster chicks to take care of.   

Project Foster was launched in the spring of 1999 when it became apparent that the eggs at the Hamilton nest were not going to hatch.  The Canadian Peregrine Foundation quickly swung into action, tracking down two captive-bred peregrine chicks that could be fostered into the nest, and raising the money needed to purchase them from the breeder.  With considerable trepidation, the three-week old chicks were placed in the nest on May 21, 1999.  Fostering had never before been attempted with such old chicks, and it was unknown whether the parents would ignore them, kill them, or adopt them.  To the relief of all, the adult male landed at the nest within ten minutes of the chicks arriving, and within half an hour, both adults were present feeding them.  To read more about this historic event, visit the May 1999 section of the Hamilton Archives.  One of the two chicks, George, has gone on to become the resident adult male in London, Ontario, and has already contributed significantly to the growth of the peregrine population in his two years there.

Rick Folkes has lowered himself to the nest ledge and is about to introduce George to his new home.  (Photo by Paul Grieve)

Connor supervises the three new arrivals while Horizon is off hunting for lunch.  (Webcam snapshot by Marion Nash)

No sooner had the Hamilton fostering been carried out, than it became apparent that a similar situation was developing in Ottawa.  Once again, frantic phone calls were made to locate chicks available for fostering, and a fundraising campaign was started.  An appeal for donations was placed on the Ottawa page of the CPF website, and it was largely through the overwhelming response of our viewers that we were able to purchase three chicks for release.  This time they were only 15-18 days old, but again there were some very tense moments as everyone waited to see how the adults would respond.  Once again, both parents quickly took to their new offspring, and the three chicks were all raised successfully - see the Ottawa Archives for the full story.  Remarkably, considering the bad luck of many other Ottawa fledglings before and since, all three took flight without any major problems.  One of the three has been spotted as an adult in Toronto.
In 2000, the Canadian Peregrine Foundation was prepared to step in with Project Foster again if necessary, but fortunately the need did not arise at any of the Ontario nest sites.  However, the opposite was true in 2001.  When the eggs of the St. Catharines pair disappeared early during incubation, plans were set in motion to foster chicks at that site.  Unfortunately, the adults lost interest in the site quickly, and since they had not raised young previously, it was decided that fostering in these circumstances constituted too great a risk. 
Later in the spring, only one of three eggs hatched in Ottawa, and with the support of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, a foster chick was procured to be added to the site.  This was the first time that we had added a chick to a site which already had a chick in the nest, and again we held our breath to see what the reaction would be.  The "natural" chick seemed a bit perturbed by his new sibling for the first few minutes, but the adults again accepted it immediately, and by the second day all were getting along wonderfully.  Read more about this event in the Ottawa Archives.  Unfortunately in this case the foster chick perished when it flew into a building on its first flight. 

The foster chick squawks following its last feeding before being placed out on the nest ledge.  (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)

While some might see the death of this chick and claim that we wasted money on that chick, we disagree.  The reality is that not every chick, whether natural or fostered, will survive to adulthood - in fact far fewer than half will reach maturity.  We can never know in advance which individuals are going to be successful and which aren't.  All that we can be certain of is that the greater the number of chicks in the wild to begin with, the higher the number of peregrines likely to grow up in the wild.  While disappointments such as this are inevitably going to occur from time to time, we therefore maintain that fostering is a very worthwhile endeavour.

To date, 5 of 6 peregrines fostered by the Canadian Peregrine Foundation have survived to the end of their first summer - a rate of success higher than that of most natural nests, and also better than that of most hack releases.  Fostering has also been proven to be a very effective way of boosting the population in other parts of North America.  The Canadian Peregrine Foundation is prepared to again consider fostering chicks in the spring of 2002 at sites where most or all eggs fail to hatch.

While private donors have been very generous in support of Project Foster, it can be very difficult to raise the money required on short notice.  We are looking for sponsors to help sponsor Project Foster - if you can help, or know of someone who might be interested, please contact us.  All sponsors will be fully recognized on the CPF website, in Talon Tales, and at the site where the foster takes place.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about Project Foster, please e-mail us.

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Canadian Peregrine Foundation