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Rare baby falcon hatched atop Lakeridge Health

In early May, a peregrine falcon hatched atop the roof of Lakeridge Health. The hatchling has been named “Ripley” and is in good health. (Photo supplied).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The roof of Lakeridge Health Oshawa has a new feathery denizen, and a rare one at that.

A baby peregrine falcon hatched atop the roof of G Wing in early May. The hatchling’s parents have been nesting atop the hospital roof for a number of years now.

“It was an event that kind of naturally came upon us,” says Neil Clarke, the director of engineering, infrastructure and security for Lakeridge Health. “They actually were on the City of Oshawa roof and whether the wind or whatever, something happened and they decided to relocate to a higher position. We’re a little higher so they thought that would be better, maybe more of a food source here.”

The newest member of the falcon family weighed approximately 820 grams, and has been named “Ripley” by one the Lakeridge staffers who first spotted the young bird after it hatched.

In Ontario, peregrine falcons are listed as a species of special concern, meaning that while they are not considered as endangered or threatened, it wouldn’t take much for them to become so due to identified biological characteristics or threats. The bird’s current status is world’s apart years past. In the 1960s, the peregrine falcon has practically disappeared from Ontario, mainly due to the spraying of the now-banned pesticide DDT. The bird’s population numbers dipped so low that extinction became a real possibility.

However, in recent years, the numbers have began to increase, thanks in part to program’s like the one at Lakeridge Health.

“We adopted it very early on knowing how endangered they were,” Clark says

The birds live inside a home designed by hospital staff and are monitored frequently via webcam and by members of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. And while staff leave the birds mostly to themselves, a few safety precautions are needed when visiting the roof for maintenance purposes as the birds can become quite protective of their nesting nights. Hard hats and brooms held over their heads generally work to avoid harm from the birds, who can dive bomb at almost 390 km/h.

When The Oshawa Express visited the hospital, baby Ripley was a bit camera shy, hiding in the corner of the nesting box, and both parents were absent from the nest. However upon a brief walk outside, one of the elder falcons could be seen perched on a ledge nearby.

A good thing, as baby peregrine falcons are known to have quite high mortality rates, with data from the province suggesting that 70 per cent of baby peregrines don’t make it past their first year.

However, if baby Ripley does make it to maturity, he can live up to 15 years.