The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Project Release



Lincoln stands defiantly by his food dish during the 1999 edition of Project Release in Guelph. (Photo by Marcel Gahbauer)


Background & Project Outline

While peregrine falcon numbers in Ontario are beginning to slowly increase, there are still considerable gaps in the population.  With the support of two eager southern Ontario communities, the Canadian Peregrine Foundation launched Project Release in the summer of 1999, with the release of six peregrine chicks.

The release of captively-bred chicks was at the core of the recovery plans for the anatum peregrine falcon in eastern North America.   Between 1977 and 1996, 520 peregrines were released in Ontario through projects organized and managed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  In 1997 and 1998, no releases were conducted in the province.  The Canadian Peregrine Foundation decided to resume releases in 1999 to help boost the Ontario population.

The preferred release method for peregrine falcons is known as hacking.  Typically this process involves obtaining captively bred chicks when they are a few weeks old, and then placing them in a hack box until they are ready to fly.  The most popular hack box design, known as the Wisconsin model, measures 6' wide by 5' deep and 5' high.  Slightly modified versions of this design are in use at all of the Project Release sites.  During the time the chicks are in the box, they are regularly fed and monitored by hack attendants.  Care is taken to avoid the birds having unnecessary human contact.  Food, for example, is dropped into the box through a tube.  The development of each of the chicks is closely monitored to determine when they are ready for their first flights.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation believes that an important part of Project Release is the educational opportunities it provides to both the local and global communities.  We encourage local involvement through participation in Project Watch-'em, and also attempt to raise public awareness of the project through school visits, public meetings, banding events, and information centres, wherever possible.  People who have direct contact with the local peregrines in this way often become great supporters, and it is our hope to continue to build community interest in these birds at each of the locations where Project Release operates.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about Project Release, please e-mail us.


1999 Season Overview

In 1999, the Canadian Peregrine Foundation released four chicks in Richmond Hill and another two in Guelph.  While neither location falls within the core of the peregrine's historical Ontario range, both sites feature a mix of tall buildings and open areas that offer good habitat for peregrines, and are not unlike some of the urban sites selected by naturally nesting peregrines.  There has been a previous release in Guelph, conducted at the East Residence of the University of Guelph in 1988.  The 1999 release took place at the same site, to allow us to benefit from previous experience.  The 1999 Richmond Hill release was the first for the town; however, hack projects have previously been undertaken in nearby Aurora (most recently in 1997), and several of the people who helped out there have participated in the 1999 release.

Each hack box was equipped with a video camera, and the chicks were being monitored by Canadian Peregrine Foundation representatives during all daylight hours.  The camera signal was broadcast live both to the local Falcon Watch Centres (see Project Show-'em) and to our website (see Project Document-'em).  The hack attendants determined when the chicks were ready to be released (around 6-7 weeks of age), and removed the bars from the front of the hack box at that time.   Volunteers assisted with Project Watch-'em for approximately three weeks at each site.

Project Release was closely tied to Project Track-'em in 1999.  Three fledglings from the Richmond Hill hack site, and one from the Guelph release have each been equipped with a satellite transmitter.  This has allowed us to track the movements of four 'urban release' peregrines for the first time.  For more information on this project, read the profile of Project Track-'em.

Residents of the Richmond Hill and Guelph areas were privileged to observe the growth of the peregrine chicks at close range, and to have the opportunity to contribute to the success of the projects by volunteering to help monitor the chicks.  Local schools and community groups were invited to come to the Falcon Watch Centres for special presentations on Project Release, and individuals were of course welcome to visit the Falcon Watch Centres at any time to watch the live video of the birds and get updates on their progress.

Fortunately, via our website, thousands of people around the world were still able to keep up to date with Project Release.  The cameras automatically sent new snapshots to the Richmond Hill and Guelph image pages every 60 seconds. The site coordinators also prepared a daily written report, which was posted on the Richmond Hill and Guelph home pages.

Project Release in Richmond Hill was supported in part by the Town of Richmond Hill, the Rouge Park, EcoAction 2000, and the Friends of the Environment Foundation.  In Guelph, we are grateful for the support of the Wellington County Stewardship Council and the Friends of the Environment Foundation.


2001 Season Overview

After a one year hiatus, Project Release resumed in the spring of 2001.  This time a total of 13 peregrine chicks were brought to four sites across southern Ontario.  We returned to Richmond Hill, where Project Release had started in 1999, but also expanded to Owen Sound, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Leeds County with the help of new partners at each of these locations.

Once again, the project was overall a great success.  This year all of the young fledged without incident - only a couple of them in Kitchener came to the ground on their initial flights, and thanks to the vigilance of our Project Watch-'em volunteers they were rescued uninjured.  Unfortunately nature took its toll on some of them, as by the end of summer three had fallen victim to predation by Great Horned Owls.  As disappointing as this was for the volunteers who had cared for these birds, this is a natural cause of mortality that peregrines have always faced.

As in 1999, several of the released peregrines became involved in Project Track-'em.  Three of the four birds continue to provide signals as of January 2002, and have provided valuable data toward our understanding of peregrine migration and dispersal.  Details on their activities can be accessed through the Project Track-'em 2001-2002 menu.

Project Release in 2001 was supported by multiple partners at each location.  Please visit the links at the top of this page for full lists of sponsors at each site, as well as a complete history of the activities at each location.


2002 Season Overview

The 2002 season of Project Release will be starting in June.  This year releases will be taking place again at three of the four sites used in 2001: Richmond Hill, Leeds County (Charleston Lake), and Kitchener-Waterloo.  Late in the season, Wesleyville was added to the plans.  For details on the activities at each location, visit the web page for each site by clicking on the links above.


2003 Season Overview

This year releases will be taking place again at : Richmond Hill, Leeds County (Charleston Lake), Kitchener-Waterloo.   For details on the activities at each location, visit the web page for each site by clicking on the links above.


2004 Season Overview

This year releases will be taking place again at Leeds County (Charleston Lake). For details on the activities at this location, visit the web page linked at the top of this page.


2005 Season Overview

This year releases will be taking place again at Leeds County (Charleston Lake). For details on the activities at this location, visit the web page here.


If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about Project Release, please e-mail us.

© Canadian Peregrine Foundation