Montreal

Montreal bridges home to growing numbers of peregrine falcons — with a little help from their friends

With its aging concrete and heavy traffic, the old Champlain Bridge isn't that inviting to humans, but for peregrine falcons, it's a prime spot to nest.

Raptors like to nest in and around bridge structures because they're akin to cliff habitats

With its aging concrete and heavy traffic, the old Champlain Bridge isn't that inviting to humans. But for peregrine falcons like this one, it's a prime spot to nest. (Radio-Canada)

With its aging concrete and heavy traffic, the old Champlain Bridge isn't that inviting to humans, but for peregrine falcons, it's a prime spot to nest.

The species is considered vulnerable in Quebec, and the bridge's management, the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., is working to make sure the birds and their brood aren't bothered.

It may seem unusual, but falcons like to nest in bridge structures because of the height and access to water.

There's a lot of wildlife around the bridges, which means food for the falcons. (Radio-Canada)

"These are species that normally live on and nest in cliffs," said Stéphane Vaquette, an environmental technician for the bridge corporation.

He said there's plenty of wildlife living in the area, so the bridge serves not only as a roost but as a hunting ground, as well.

The initiative has helped to lead to 33 baby bird births over the past six years, with eight new babies this year alone.

Stéphane Vaquette, right, an environmental technician for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., says peregrine falcons are known to nest in bridge structures because they are not so different from cliffs. (Radio-Canada)

In an effort to make the bridge a little more falcon-friendly, the corporation has built little boxes and affixed them to the side of the bridge where the birds and their young will be safest from the elements.

These aren't your ordinary bird houses, though.

They're placed in spots to help keep them away from the busy work site and give them a place to escape from the racket of the ongoing construction.

The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc. has built custom wooden boxes for the falcons to nest in. (Radio-Canada)

The company has also hired ornithological experts, including Pierre Molina, to make sure the bridge-building doesn't ruffle too many feathers.

"We're very far from the old mentality that was, work comes first, too bad for everything that lives around the bridge," said Molina.

Ornithological expert Pierre Molina has been brought in to consult on how to best create a conducive environment for the peregrine falcons to thrive. (Radio-Canada)

So far, two custom-made falcon homes have been affixed to the Champlain Bridge, along with another two on the Mercier Bridge.

Three more have been placed on the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

What will happen to these tenants once the old structure is gone? 

The consortium building the new Champlain said not to worry, as it's already reserved space on the new bridge for future falcon flats.

Peregrine falcons are considered a vulnerable species in Quebec. (Radio-Canada)

With files from CBC's Simon Nakonechny, Radio-Canada

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