Hamilton falcon watchers fear eggs have failed

It appears Hamilton may not get to celebrate the birth of any falcon chicks hatched atop the downtown Sheraton Hotel this year.

Usually, Peregrine falcon eggs on top of the Sheraton Hotel would have hatched by now

It appears that the first clutch of Peregrine falcon eggs laid atop the Sheraton in downtown Hamilton has failed. (Falcons.hamiltonnature.org)

It appears Hamilton may not get to celebrate the birth of any falcon chicks hatched atop the downtown Sheraton Hotel this year.

Webcam footage monitoring the nesting site of the city's resident adult pair of birds, Lily and Ossie, has captured Lily removing a failed egg from the nest.

It's also been eight weeks since she laid her eggs, and falcon eggs usually hatch within five weeks, said Mike Street, senior monitor with Hamilton FalconWatch.

"We really don't know what has happened," he said. "We're well past the hatch date.

"The only thing we can assume is the eggs have failed."

If that's the case, this would be the fifth time in the 25-year history that falcons have been nesting atop the Sheraton that no eggs have hatched. The same thing happened in 1996, 1999, 2015 and 2017. Falcon watchers have speculated that the cold weather this spring may have had an effect.

But, Street said, there is some hope yet. The mother bird keeps hunkering down in a corner of the ledge and performing incubation behaviour, so it's possible that she still feels some eggs are viable.

Falcons have been nesting on the Sheraton hotel in Hamilton for 25 years. (Adam Carter/CBC)

"It's also possible they've laid replacement eggs, and they're now incubating them. We just don't know," Street said.

Hamilton's Peregrine falcons are a big deal as the species was once on the brink of extinction, but is now in recovery.

Lily and Ossie have been in Hamilton for four years now, with this marking their fifth nesting season.

Each year, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, in partnership with the Hamilton Community Peregrine Project, puts identifying bands on the chicks so they can keep track of the growth and spread of the species.

That way they'll know how many chicks live in each nest, where they end up, and if they survive.

When the Peregrine falcon chicks are born, they are taken from the next and banded. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Four male chicks were all tagged and named in May of last year: Lawrence, Ainslie, Gage and Lisgar — with their namesakes all coming from area parks.

Street said the hope is that some eggs will hatch this year, though he knows it's possible that won't happen.

"It is sad, but we're all pretty realistic that this is nature, and these things happen."


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