Late great Nate recalled
Nate broke rules
April 21, 2005
John Stewart - The Mississauga News
The unexpected death of Nate, an overachieving peregrine falcon whose body was found in Mississauga a few weeks ago, has saddened bird lovers around the globe.
"People are pretty bummed out about this," said Mark Nash, president of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, whose program to revive the falcon population has been a scientific success, as well as a huge hit with the public.
"We've had responses from around the planet, from Australia, Spain, Britain, two from China, from Hawaii and from all over the continental United States," Nash said yesterday. "People just want to pass along their sympathies about the loss of this little character."
The bird's body was found at the end of March on the property of St. Lawrence Cement, where Nate and his mate Eva had successfully raised five chicks in 2003 and 2004. He had been decapitated and partially eaten in what appears to have been an owl attack. He may also have been killed by a younger male rival.
If there were a hall of fame for the peregrine release program, Nate almost certainly would have been its first inductee.
Bred in captivity in Edmonton, Nate and four of his brothers were raised in a box on the roof of the Richmond Hill town hall. They were part of one of the very first releases June 28, 1999.
He became the subject of much controversy a year later when the Peregrine Foundation strapped a 30-gram harness with a radio transmitter on his back to do satellite tracking of the movements of young falcons, about which little was then known. Some biologists and scientists decried the idea and said it could hold back the bird. Nate proved them wrong.
"He became sort of our superstar," said Nash.
The only bird to complete three full years of radio tracking, the data showed that, as a young bird before he was sexually mature, Nate took his time flying the 5,000 kms. from his winter home on the coast of Colombia back to Canada.
Once he'd establish a territory on the Lake Ontario waterfront at St. Lawrence Cement, where employees kept a watchful eye on his every move, a breeding box was placed there. Nate flew back in a single month the last couple of years to stake out his territory.
He and Eva hooked up three years ago. They didn't produce any eggs the first year, had one chick (Lawrie) two years ago and four last year (Avery, Portland, Aldara and Dakota, the only male.)
Patrick Franchomme, general manager of St. Lawrence, said Nate became "a kind of mascot" for the plant, which embraced the falcons. "Clearly, Nate was part of the plant's story for the last five years."
Employee Barbara Smith said, "Nate was very special, no doubt about it." An obituary was even posted in the plant. "This is how Mother Nature works and hopefully, we'll come to embrace the new bird. I'm sure we will," she said.
Nash can testify from banding the bird and placing transmitters on it that Nate was a ferocious fighter.
"He was one of the most nasty-assed little birds I've ever met," he said. "This bird just tore us to pieces. I still have the scars to prove it."
Falcons don't see well in the dark and hide at night. If found, they are practically defenseless against larger predatory birds.
Since Nate's death, a new potential mate for Eva, a two-year-old named Jackson who came from the Hamilton release program, has been hanging around the nest. "We're very hopeful" a new mating could result, Nash said.
Nate's many fans are urging the Foundation to mark his extraordinary contribution in some way and plans are now being made to do that.
"He broke all the rules," Nash told The News. "He really put us on the map."
THE MISSISSAUGA NEWS
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