RESEARCH

PEREGRINE FALCON

RESULTS

Skye - hatched in Rochester, New York

Scroll down or click here to access the latest reports on Skye's movements

Background:
For the second consecutive year, MRF is proud to be tracking a juvenile Peregrine Falcon from Rochester, New York, in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Eastman Kodak, and the Genesee Valley Audubon Society.  This year the satellite transmitter is being worn by a female named Skye.  For a detailed account of the movements of Hafoc, the young male tracked last year, click here.

The transmitter worn by Skye is powered by solar energy, and has the potential to broadcast for two to three years.  Unfortunately juvenile Peregrine Falcons are known to have an average first-year mortality rate of 60-70%, so there is no guarantee that our observations will last that long, though we hope that Skye will defy those odds.  

Data received will be summarized on this page in reverse chronological order on a weekly basis, and at times more frequently.  Maps will be updated as Skye begins to travel further away from Rochester, as frequently as necessary to illustrate her movements.

The eastern Peregrine Falcon population has been increasing steadily in recent years, but remains relatively small, and there is still very little known about the survival and dispersal of juveniles in particular.  Satellite telemetry provides us a rare opportunity to track in detail the movements of individual birds to gain insights into some of these mysteries.

The combined weight of the transmitter and harness is just over 20 grams, which is less than 3% of a female Peregrine Falcon's average weight.  It is attached to the bird as a backpack, with the harness made of soft and flexible neoprene.  The harness has been sewn together with biodegradable thread, which will allow the transmitter to fall off after approximately two years.  Previous studies suggest that even in the meantime, the transmitter is not expected to influence the bird's behaviour in any way.  For further information on the technical aspects of satellite telemetry, check out our methods section and the links contained therein.

Questions or comments?  Please e-mail MRF Research Director Marcel Gahbauer.
Tax-deductible donations to support this and other research programs are
greatly appreciated - click here for more information



(Map updated each weekend)


Reports:

September 17, 2005:  
Lucknow, ON.  Although they are not what we were hoping for, a search for Skye has yielded some results.  Skye was found ~15 metres from the last telemetry location received, though her transmitter itself was not seen.

We now know more specifics about the location.  Skye was within a few metres of a pond, just inside a recently cut corn field and adjacent to a field with horses.  The nearby road is gravel and lightly traveled, and it therefore seems unlikely that she suffered a vehicle collision.  Rather, given the condition in which she was found, it appears she was the victim of predation.  One plausible scenario is that she had caught prey from on/around the pond, and was eating it on the ground when attacked by a terrestrial predator (fox or coyote most likely).  An older Peregrine Falcon would usually carry prey to a safe place before eating, but young birds are more likely to make "careless errors", and sometimes pay the ultimate price for them. 

This will likely be the final entry on Skye's page.  Thank you to all of our project supporters, and to all of you who have shown an interest in reading about Skye's travels.  Watch the MRF news page for announcements about other ongoing research and future projects as they are announced.

September 11, 2005:  
Lucknow, ON.  Our tracking of Skye appears to have come to an unexpected and sudden end.  On Wednesday morning we received three consecutive satellite readings from exactly the same location, spread across three hours.  This was unusual enough, but temperature data received on Thursday suggested the transmitter was no longer on a live bird.  Friday was a scheduled gap in the transmission, so we had to wait for yesterday's data to confirm our suspicions - and unfortunately those results were consistent with the earlier ones.

The two possibilities are that Skye has died, or that she has somehow shed the harness and transmitter.  Unfortunately, the data do not provide us any way of distinguishing between these.  The harness was designed to stay intact for at least two years, but we can't rule out the chance that it could have failed much earlier than expected.

If in fact Skye has died, there are many potential causes.  The current location of the transmitter is within 100 metres of a road, and factoring in the error associated with data points, could in fact be much closer.  Juvenile Peregrine Falcons do sometimes get hit by vehicles, so that is one possibility.  West Nile Virus has been recorded in various parts of Ontario this year, and with the amount of time that Skye has spent near wetlands, especially while around Luther Lake, it is possible that she was bitten by infected mosquitoes.  It could also be that like so many other young raptors, she simply was not an efficient enough hunter, and died of starvation.  Other diseases, predation, errant shots from waterfowl hunters, and other possibilities exist too.

We will try to locate the transmitter in an effort to resolve these questions.  However, even with the search narrowed down to a radius of around 100 metres, it can still be a daunting challenge to find such a small object (especially if the transmitter only is present).  Updates will be posted if we are successful in learning anything further.

September 6, 2005:  
Kincardine, ON.  Another move to the west for Skye today, taking her back to the Lake Huron shoreline.  This time she is just outside the town of Kincardine, south of where she was on her last trip to the lake at Port Elgin more than two weeks ago.

September 4, 2005:  
Luther Lake, ON.  Skye moved around a fair bit over the last week, but eventually ended up on the opposite side of Luther Lake from where she began.  Early in the week, she moved southwest for three days to a rural area a bit northwest of Kitchener-Waterloo.  The beginning of September triggered another northward movement, bringing Skye to Collingwood, at the southern end of Georgian Bay.  Her movement in this direction may have been linked to the strong south winds bringing in the remnants of Hurricane Katrina.  Collingwood has reported irregular Peregrine Falcon sightings over the past few years, but no nesting attempts have been documented yet.  By yesterday Skye was edging back south again, hanging around Shelburne, and as of today she was moving back and forth along the eastern side of Luther Lake.  There have not yet been any major cold fronts, and it will be interesting to see how Skye responds when one finally passes.

August 27, 2005:  
Luther Lake, ON.  Skye seems to have set up at least a temporary home base northwest of Toronto.  For long periods on two of the last three days, she has been on the west side of Luther Lake, the largest inland wetland in southwestern Ontario.  Much of the lake is shallow and marshy, and it supports a tremendous variety of breeding waterfowl, several of them found in few if any other locations in the southern part of the province.  Presumably by stationing herself beside the lake, Skye is taking advantage of the abundant ducks and other marsh birds, living up to the "duck hawk" nickname that Peregrine Falcons bear. 

August 24, 2005:  
Arthur, ON.  For the past four days, Skye has remained within a 25 kilometre radius of Arthur, Ontario.  On August 22 she moved east from her previous location, approaching Orangeville.  However, since then she has drifted slowly to the west again each day, ending up right in Arthur this afternoon.  Skye is currently less than 50 kilometres north of both Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo, both of which are cities which have hosted Peregrine Falcons on several occasions in recent years, though no nesting attempts have yet been reported.  It would not be surprising to see Skye pay a visit to one or both locations while she is in the area.

August 20, 2005:  
Palmerston, ON.  Severe storms rolled through much of southwestern Ontario yesterday, including at least one tornado northwest of Toronto and plenty of heavy rain and winds everywhere.  We were curious to learn whether Skye responded to this by staying put and seeking shelter, or trying to move away from the bad weather.  The answer is that she did in fact start moving back south, passing by her location from two days ago, and ending up around Palmerston.

August 19, 2005:  
Port Elgin, ON.  A shorter distance traveled by Skye this time around.  Of all the equidistant towns from her last known point, she picked Port Elgin as her destination.  This is along the shore of Lake Huron, not far south of the Bruce Peninsula, where Peregrine Falcons have begun nesting again in recent years.  Even closer is MacGregor Point Provincial Park, a known hotspot for birds of all kinds.  From here she will either have to turn back, or set out across the water again.  We will boldly predict a turn to the south ... recognizing that tomorrow Skye could easily prove us wrong! 

August 18, 2005:  
Ayton, ON.  Skye has become quite famous in the past few days, with articles in both the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and Toronto Star describing her early travels away from home.  Welcome to the readers who are visiting the MRF website for the first time as a result of these articles!

For reasons we can only speculate about, Skye has chosen not to stay in Toronto.  In fact, for the moment at least it seems like she has given up on city life entirely.  The latest data to arrive were collected between 9 pm last night and 5 am this morning.  Not surprisingly, Skye was stationary during this period.  She was near Ayton, Ontario, in a relatively flat and largely agricultural part of the province.  The nearest large towns or cities in any direction are 60-70 kilometres away (Owen Sound to the north, Port Elgin to the northwest, Goderich to the southwest, Kitchener to the southeast, and Orangeville to the east).  The landscape around Ayton isn't particularly well suited to a Peregrine Falcon, so chances are good she will have moved elsewhere again by the time we receive tomorrow night's update.

Meanwhile, we have learned that back on August 7, Skye had an adventure of an entirely different sort while still in Rochester.  She walked into a rooftop pigeon trap on a hospital, and had herself a nice meal ... there were 9 pigeons in the trap when she entered, but only 7 by the time she was found!  Though well-fed, Skye nonetheless was in the same predicament as the pigeons in that she could not escape - but no doubt experiencing much less stress than the pigeons, which must have been wondering who would be the next meal!.  Skye was released unharmed by the monitors checking the traps (as were the pigeons).  Nevertheless, perhaps it is more than coincidence that it was the following day when she made her first significant foray away from Rochester!  We can only hope she has learned her lesson and will not put herself in such a position again.

August 16, 2005:  
Toronto, ON.  Skye is on the move!  Sunday she flew southwest, ending up roughly 100 kilometres from Rochester, between Lime Lake-Machias and Houghton.  She remained in that area overnight, then on Monday morning headed northwest and by early afternoon was just southeast of downtown Buffalo.  Whether or not she encountered the local peregrines there we don't know, but in any event she didn't linger.  Today's reports, spanning a 3-hour period this afternoon, had her northwest of downtown Toronto, in an area bounded by St. Clair and Lawrence Avenues to the south and north, and Bathurst and Jane Streets to the east and west.  Toronto currently has at least 5 active peregrine territories, so Skye may soon find herself an unwelcome intruder in one of their territories.  Even if she does not encounter them, data from recent days suggest that she is likely to remain on the move.

August 13, 2005:  
Rochester, NY.  Again Skye made just one noteworthy trip away from Rochester this week, but it was a significantly longer one than last time.  On August 8, she spent the afternoon roughly 65 kilometres to the south, in the area of Nunda, between the Genesee River and I-390.  However, the next day she was back in downtown Rochester again, and has spent the rest of the week there.

August 8, 2005:  
Rochester, NY.  Mostly another uneventful week, but Skye did make at least one foray further away from home.  Satellite reports were received on six of seven days over the past week, and except on Saturday, Skye remained within a couple of kilometres of the Kodak nest box, as has been her habit to date.  To our surprise, Friday night found her 20 kilometres to the southeast, along I-90, midway between the Hwy 96 and Hwy 64 exits.  However, it was a brief trip only, as observers saw her back near the nest already early on Saturday morning.  It seems that Skye is testing her independence, and we expect her trips away from home to become longer and more frequent as time goes on.

July 31, 2005:  
Rochester, NY.  Another week has passed without Skye making any movements of note yet.  Very strong signals have been received from her transmitter almost daily, with the most distant of them coming from less than 3 kilometres away from the nest box.  However, data from the past few days suggest that she might be starting to roam at least a bit more.  In the first half of the week she appeared to rarely be out of sight of the nest, but on Friday she wandered west along Hwy 33 a little, while yesterday and today she was east along Hwy 36, a bit beyond the Inner Loop.

July 25, 2005:  
Rochester, NY.  As is to be expected from a young bird, Skye is still staying close to home.  She is taking it to an extreme though - on four of the last five days, the strongest signals from her transmitter have placed her within one kilometre of the nest box!  The one exception was on July 20, when she was along the Genesee River, a bit north of Highway 104.  Her very local movements to date suggest that she either remains dependent on her parents for food, or is simply not ready to assert her independence fully yet.

July 18, 2005:  
Rochester, NY.  We began receiving data from Skye's transmitter five days ago, and the locations have consistently indicated that she is remaining close to the heart of Rochester, never yet straying more than 6 kilometres from the nest site at the Kodak headquarters.  What few movements she is making tend to overwhelmingly be on the east side of the Genesee River, and mostly heading straight east from the nest.  On July 15 we received a clear report from during the middle of the night which placed her almost right at the nest, suggesting that perhaps at least part of the time she still returns 'home' to roost for the night.

Updates to Skye's position will be posted here approximately weekly, and a map of her movements will be added at the top of the reports section once she begins to move outside of the Rochester area.

July 2, 2005:  
Rochester, NY.  Skye's transmitter is functioning well, but we are awaiting for authorizations to clear which will permit the flow of data to us to begin.  Regular updates on Skye will commence on this page around mid-July.

 

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