What to Expect

The Ottawa Peregrine Falcon Watch depends on volunteers to monitor and rescue young falcons during the fledging period (when they learn to fly). This is a serious responsibility, so volunteers must be prepared to give the falcons their full attention while on duty.

The schedule for the 2015 season at Heron Rd. is now posted, and you can sign up for shifts here.

As for the downtown nest, the Peregrines have not been sighted in the area lately, and we do not know if they have any chicks. They have not succeeded in hatching any eggs for several years, and we no longer have access to the adjacent roof to monitor them, but we will post an update if warranted.

We appreciate any time you can contribute, even if it’s just one shift.

How do I sign up?

  • Please email volunteer@falconwatch.ca to let us know that you are interested.
  • Please check the schedule and fill in the form to sign up for individual shifts. Please note that only volunteers’ first names and last initials will appear on the posted schedule.
  • We will update the schedule at least twice a day.
  • You will be asked to sign a volunteer waiver when you start your first shift.

What do volunteers do?

  • The Falcon Watch’s main objective is to assist the young birds, if required, as they learn to fly. Volunteers station themselves near the nest site to keep an eye on the fledgling chicks and do what they can to keep them from harm.
  • Volunteers watch the young falcons constantly and chase after them when they take flight, to see where they land and to rescue them if they fall, crash into a building or land in an unsafe place. These birds move quickly, so you must be prepared to react instantly.
  • It is extremely important to keep track of the young falcons at all times; we cannot rescue them if we do not know where they are. For this reason, we ask that you refrain from using your cellphone or otherwise taking your focus away from the falcons unless absolutely necessary.
  • We work in teams when possible and remain in communication by two-way radio or cellphone, which is important when you are not in visual contact with each other.
  • Volunteers may have to run, cross streets and/or stop traffic as they chase after the young falcons. We provide safety vests for visibility and safety.
  • You will be expected to take general notes on the location and behaviour of the falcons during your shift, including both the adults and chicks.
  • Curious passersby will ask you questions about what you are doing. Part of your role is to educate the public about these impressive birds of prey, and to explain the purpose of the Falcon Watch. But remember that your primary responsibility is to watch the chicks.
  • Rescued falcons that are unharmed are taken back to the nest ledge or other nearby spot and released. Injured falcons may need to be taken to a veterinarian for care.
  • You are not expected to handle a bird if you are uncomfortable doing so.

When is the Falcon Watch?

  • The Falcon Watch runs from sunup to sundown, seven days a week, during the fledging period, usually two or three weeks in June or July.
  • There are four shifts: 6 – 9 a.m., 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., 1 – 5 p.m. and 5 – 9 p.m.
  • We do not know the exact timing of the Falcon Watch until chicks hatch. We begin when they are about five weeks old, and end when the chicks can fly with confidence. For 2015, the Falcon Watch will officially begin on Friday, June 26 and run until Monday, July 6, unless circumstances change.
  • Volunteers will have access to an online schedule that is updated at least twice a day.

Will I receive training?

  • Yes. New volunteer can receive training on site.
  • New volunteers are teamed up with experienced ones as much as possible, but this cannot be guaranteed.

Can anyone volunteer?

  • For legal reasons, volunteers must be 18 years of age or over, or be supervised by an adult.
  • Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and is the responsibility of that adult.
  • Because we are sometimes required to drop everything and run, we cannot be responsible for unsupervised children, and we do not recommend bringing children too young to be left alone.

What should I bring?

  • Binoculars are extremely useful for locating and observing the falcons. We have some available if you do not have your own.
  • Wear comfortable shoes suitable for running.
  • Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, food and water.
  • Dress in layers or bring an extra jacket/sweater for early mornings and late evenings.
  • We have some towels and leather gloves available (both are absolutely required for handling falcons), but many volunteers prefer to carry their own.
  • You may need to chase a flying falcon on very short notice, so please do not bring items of value (i.e. laptops, cameras, purses) unless you can easily carry them on your person — while running! — or lock them up in your car before your shift.

What do I need to know about the Heron Rd. site?

  • The Peregrine nest is on a ledge on the south side of the CRA Technology Centre at 875 Heron Rd. Volunteers are most often stationed on the grass far back from the south side of the building, past the main road that runs through the site (i.e. closer to the Heron bridge and Transitway station than to the building). Volunteers may move to other areas to maintain visual contact with the birds as they take their first flights.
  • If you cannot find the other volunteers or the Falcon Watch equipment (rescue box, etc.), please look around the building or call 613-322-5269. Do not ask building security for guidance, as they do not keep track of where we are.
  • Paid parking is available at the Heron Rd. site (not controlled evenings and weekends).
  • Alternatively, you can park at Billings Bridge or the RA Centre and walk from there (about 500 m uphill).
  • The site is easily accessible by public transit to the Heron Transitway station (exit north).
  • There is no food available nearby, so please come prepared with a full stomach or a packed lunch/dinner.
  • There are washroom facilities available in the CRA Data Centre near the security desk.
  • Please remember that we are guests on this property. Please be courteous to staff and security personnel.

What’s next?

  • We will contact volunteers once we have confirmed hatched chicks and have determined their expected fledging date.
  • You will need to sign a volunteer waiver before you start your first shift.