Reflecting on Melbourne’s sadness

I would have moved on to a different topic but several of my readers have written to me sad and frustrated that nothing was done to treat the ill peregrine falcon nestling in Melbourne. Others are very concerned that if the little male’s corpse is not removed, other, larger birds of prey might consume it and get ill. Each raises some interesting moral and ethical issues as well as practical and legal ones.

As in all cases, it is good for readers to know where the writer stands on matters so to be clear – I encourage banding of birds and the use of sat-paks for tracking information in research. I do not believe we have too many birds and I take the position of Rosalie Edge that we must know the numbers we have to be able to determine if they are dwindling. I promote safe fishing practices to protect all seabirds. I also believe that humans have had a catastrophic impact on our planet and that the fine line of when to intervene or not is blurred. I believe that animals and birds have a positive impact on human life. I know, from all the letters I receive from each of you daily, that the streaming cams of the birds has added a level of joy to your lives that many did not think possible. Many have written to me who were dying of cancer saying that the streaming cams of the birds took their mind off themselves. How wonderful. As a former university faculty member with numerous research projects, I know that permissions, specific protocols, and agreements are made and it is not always easy to tweak these. In other words, some researchers hands are simply bound and they can do nothing even if they wanted.

There is a treatment protocol for Trichomoniasis in peregrine falcons. (There is also treatments for song birds and I thank ‘L’ for reminding me of this). I am posting the first page of an article in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery. The abstract at the top gives a very good synopsis of the paper. (I have yet to find a free PDF so I can post the article in its entirety).

It is unclear how practical it would be to treat wild birds such as the male on the ledge. Indeed, there could be legal issues for the researchers that do not allow for any intervention. That is something that has to be realized.

This brings me to the second concern of my readers – the corpse of the young male left on the scrape box. Peregrine Falcons are very particular about what they eat. I am not concerned about the other chicks and I do not know what other birds in the area might venture up to that high of a level for carrion. In a rural area where there could be vultures, I would be very concerned. And in my own urban area, I note that gulls will eat anything. So, yes, I am also concerned and hope that the body is removed and disposed of properly.

This was an unusual year watching this pair of Peregrine Falcons raise their chicks. At the onset, I stated that the majority of the prey items would be pigeons. As you will have noticed, there have been a variety of birds including what appears to be one of the released Peace Doves in yesterday’s Remembrance Day celebrations yesterday. So was this caused by there not being as many pigeons as normal? And is this because there has been bouts of Trichomoniasis within the species in Melbourne that has killed off numbers of the birds?

Where is the male falcon that fledged? We have seen the two large sibling sisters with their little brother. Is it possible that that little male also ingested enough of the diseased bird to be impacted?

There could be answers for the question around the disease killing off large populations of Melbourne’s pigeons. I will try and find out. I doubt if we will ever know the answer to the question about the other male unless it is found and identified and a post-mortem conducted. I truly hope that I am wrong and it just doesn’t want to fly that high yet!

I really want to thank all of you that reached out over the past week and those today. You show a genuine concern for the wildlife and birds which is refreshing and hopeful. I will, most likely, put this little one to rest now. Your letters are always welcome. Your concerns are never trivial. Thank you for caring!

1 Comment

  1. Mary Ann thank you for this and every newsletter you put out! They are thorough and very informative information. The article on the disease is a good one! I hope the little falcon didn’t suffer too much, I know it begged for food which makes me think it could have been treated for this disease. When a bird doesn’t eat or beg for food is a sickly bird. May this precious little one Rest In Peace ❤️🙏😔
    Good evening and take care!
    Linda

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