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Rehabbed Grand Forks peregrine lands permanent home in Winnipeg

An X-ray image taken at a Winnipeg rehab facility this fall shows the damage to the right wing of David, a peregrine falcon hatched in 2016 in Grand Forks and named after local birding authority Dave Lambeth. Courtesy of Robert Wheeldon, Parkland Mews / Special to Forum News Service1 / 2
Dave Lambeth, Grand Forks, holds his namesake, David the peregrine, in late June 2016 after the bird was found hopping along the railroad tracks near the UND water tower. Local raptor expert Tim Driscoll was able to rescue the peregrine, which was taken to the roof of Starcher Hall and spotted back in the nest box the next day. Courtesy of Dave Lambeth / Special to Forum News Service2 / 2

GRAND FORKS, N.D.—A peregrine falcon hatched in 2016 atop the University of North Dakota water tower and named after Grand Forks birding authority Dave Lambeth has a new permanent home.

In Winnipeg.

David, as the peregrine chick was dubbed in June 2016 when he was banded by local raptor expert Tim Driscoll, now is a resident of Parkland Mews Falconry and Bird of Prey Education Centre, a facility on the outskirts of Winnipeg that runs a breeding and education program using birds of prey that recover from injury but can't be released back to the wild.

Webster's New World Dictionary defines a mew as "a cage for hawks, especially when molting."

Driscoll said he spoke in early November with Robert Wheeldon of Parkland Mews about David's condition.

"David has a calcified wrist (the first joint on the wing)," Driscoll said. "He can hunt and catch live prey, but he can't fly well enough to be released."

In a phone interview, Wheeldon said David was found in late September in a residential area of St. Boniface, a Winnipeg suburb near the Red River.

Band numbers quickly traced him back to Driscoll's banding effort in June 2016.

David was taken to Parkland Mews, where Wheeldon determined the bird had an injured right wing and sent him to Wildlife Haven, a Winnipeg wildlife rehab facility, where David spent the next several weeks.

David returned to Parkland Mews on Nov. 7, Wheeldon said, and now is doing "extremely well."

"I've got him flying up vertically," Wheeldon said. "Initially, he could barely hop from a low perch on the ground to a boulder. He's flying up 8 feet to a perch, and he can do that no problem at all. He'll build muscle to compensate for the wing injury."

Uncertain journey

David's flight path to Winnipeg isn't certain, but after leaving Grand Forks in the fall of 2016, he likely migrated to the southern U.S. before heading north this past spring.

Young peregrines tend to return to the area they were hatched, and David likely spent the summer flying and hunting between Grand Forks and Winnipeg before he was injured, according to Tracy Maconachie, project coordinator of Manitoba's Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project.

"He was doing exactly what has happened before" with peregrines from Grand Forks and Fargo, she said.

Most likely, David collided with something while hunting near the river, Maconachie said.

"David went down in a residential area where there are no tall buildings," she said. "We have no idea why he went down. There's no kind of trouble he could get into because there are no buildings to hit.

"He was probably hunting over the river going after ducks or gulls and misjudged the wind. It doesn't take much. They're fragile little things—strong and tough as nails, but fragile nonetheless. There's only so much G-force, so much sheer pressure you can put on a wing."

Favorable outcome

At Parkland Mews, Wheeldon puts out live prey for David and other peregrines to hunt and catch, he said. Because one of David's wings is shorter than the other, he won't have the maneuverability needed to hunt and survive in the wild, Wheeldon said.

"David's well on the way to the best recovery that could be hoped for, and there's anticipation he could be paired for breeding," he said.

If they're compatible, a female onsite named Gracie would be David's mate, Wheeldon said. They would join five other peregrine pairs already breeding at Parkland Mews, he said.

David also has a family connection to Parkland Mews. His great-great grandfather, Caleb, and great-grandfather, Beau, also live at Parkland Mews, Wheeldon said.

"It's interesting that both birds, Beau and David, were wild produced but ended up here by being injured in Winnipeg," Wheeldon said.

Strong connection

Grand Forks and Manitoba have a strong connection in the ongoing story of recovery efforts for peregrine falcons, a species once on the brink of extinction. David's mother, Terminator, was hatched in Brandon, Man., in 2006 and has produced every peregrine chick in Grand Forks to date.

David's father, Marv, is the 2013 Fargo offspring of Annie, who despite the feminine name, is a male peregrine and also has Manitoba origins.

Annie actually is short for anniversary and was named for the 30th anniversary of Manitoba's peregrine recovery program, said Maconachie, the Manitoba Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project coordinator.

David has three siblings: Marilyn, named after Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty; Clifton, after Clifton "Cliff" Cushman, a Central High School track star and Olympic athlete whose plane went down in 1966 over Vietnam; and Ali after Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxer and social activist who died in June 2016.

The three siblings haven't been sighted since leaving the nest in Grand Forks.

Ironically, David also had to be rescued in Grand Forks in late June 2016, when Dave Lambeth saw the bird hopping on the ground by the railroad tracks near the water tower. Lambeth contacted Driscoll, who managed to catch the bird. The two of them then took the peregrine to the roof of Starcher Hall adjacent to the water tower, Driscoll said, and David was back in the nest box atop the water tower the next day.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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