Peregrines nest on Osler hospital sign 'Nifty place' for birds of prey
It's an unusual perch for two peregrine falcons, eyeing the world from behind the blue "H" sign on the 11th storey of William Osler Health Centre's Etobicoke hospital.
Recently discovered, the pair of anatum subspecies of peregrine built their nest on a precarious 45-degree angled ledge. Hospital officials called The Canadian Peregrine Foundation, a small non-profit group dedicated to the recovery and restoration of endangered and threatened birds of prey in Canada.
"What a nifty place," said Mark Nash, founder and executive director of the foundation. "There's no better place if we custom ordered it."
That's because the nest is mere metres from an access door to the hospital roof.
That door - as well as Osler maintenance and engineering staff - allowed Nash access to the nest to take measurements. Days later, he installed a fill tray with 150 pounds of pea gravel to steady and bolster the nest.
"We close the hatch and cross our fingers."
Egg fertilization is already under way, Nash said. But the bolstered nest seems a harder sell to the suspicious female than to her settled-in partner.
"We're very hopeful he's able to convince her it's a nifty place."
Identifying the peregrines proved a harder task. Band numbers told the tale.
The female peregrine is "Juliet," a native of Syracuse, N.Y., identified by the Albany Wildlife Office.
"I don't think I've ever received as much e-mail from one group in 10 years," Nash said. "They were absolutely buzzed about one of their offspring being found."
Buzzed because 2005 was the first year - since the late '50s, early '60s - that Syracuse has had a pair of peregrines.
Her mate "Hurricane" is a local, born in 2004 atop the roof of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto.
The peregrines' perch is all the more unusual since the hospital roof has for a dozen years been the nesting site for a pair of resident, and territorial, Canada Geese - and peregrines and the Branta canadensis don't typically flock together, Nash said.
What the two nests demonstrate, Nash said, is that both species are adaptable to the urban environment. Osler's roof is a safe place to be: no predators, ample food, and year-round heat.
"It's a really wonderful story. Of all places for these birds to land. This hospital is helping a lot more than just people, from geese to peregrines."