At-risk baby falcon falls 31 storeys, gets new chance at life

After falling 31 storeys from the top of Edmonton’s Bell Tower, a baby peregrine falcon is being given a new chance at life. The species is endangered in the province of Alberta.

'It’s a threatened species so every life matters,' falconer says.

This falcon was rescued after falling 31 storeys on Wednesday. The only injury sustained by the bird is a small cut on its forehead. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

After falling 31 storeys from the top of Edmonton's Bell Tower, a baby peregrine falcon is being given a new chance at life.

The baby bird, its wings spread out like a parachute, spiraled all the way down into an alleyway Wednesday night. A concerned citizen saw the bird, grabbed a box, and called peregrine falcon expert Gordon Court.

"I had the easy job," Court said Friday. "Fortunately, she didn't hit anything on the way down or she'd be in a lot worse shape than she is."

The bird has only one scrape on its forehead, a small scar to remind it of the fall.

Court brought the large box to Pembina River, an hour from Edmonton's downtown, along a strip of private land ideal for peregrine falcons. Soaring cliffs, river beds and lush wildlife all attract the birds to the area during the summer.

The bird sits on a log waiting to shed its down feathers before taking its first real flight. (Anna Desmarais/CBC )

The peregrine falcon is an at-risk bird in the province of Alberta. The species was at the brink of extinction after the overuse of pesticides between the 1950s and 1970s but through the efforts of falconers like Court, the population has rebounded.

"It's a threatened species so every life matters," he said. "It's one strike and you're out. If you hit the ground in the city, you come out here."

There are eight pairs of peregrine falcons scattered around the Edmonton area, roosting on tall buildings instead of cliffs. Falconer Steve Schwartze believes they've migrated to the cities because food is readily available.

These birds mate once a year and produce four or five babies, making it difficult to regenerate its population.

"This nesting site is probably responsible for saving these peregrines at one point or another," Schwartze said. 

Falconer Steve Schwartz takes the newly rescued bird out of its box (Anna Desmarais/CBC )

The baby bird is currently living in a small, white box on the side of a cliff with a view of the river. For five days, the bird will be growing and shedding its down feathers, preparing for its first flight.

Schwartze comes to the box everyday, and leaves smaller birds as food. He said he hopes this practice will teach the falcons that the natural environment has more prey than the cities - and will ultimately keep them alive.

"We don't want them to leave [the cities] necessarily," he said. "We just want future generations to occupy more suitable nest sites in wild places like this along rivers and waterways."

When the bird finally takes to the skies, Schwartze said it's possible it could end up in Argentina, Chile, or even parts of Japan.