Peregrine falcon rescued from inside Winnipeg cellphone tower

By | May 25, 2020

An endangered bird is now safe and in care after an hours-long rescue near Winnipeg’s Dufferin neighbourhood on Saturday.

A peregrine falcon found its way into a Telus cellphone tower at McPhillips Street and Jarvis Avenue and could not get out, Zoe Nakata said Saturday.

A maintenance worker from a contracting company who spotted the female falcon at the base of the tower’s shaft called the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre in Île des Chênes, Man., where Nakata is executive director.

“When they looked into, down into the tower, which is basically just a really long tube, they saw that at the bottom there was a peregrine falcon,” Nakata said.

“[The bird] could not get the velocity to fly out,” she said; they assumed the animal was weak and unhealthy.

Zoe Nakata of Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre says rescuers climbed to the top of a Telus cellphone tower, then dropped down into the shaft to get to the bird. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

After a few hours of trying different techniques without success, such as scooping her out with a basket made of tarp, rescuers came up with the idea of dropping into the tower’s shaft, which Nakata said was just wide enough for a person to fit in, yet too narrow for the animal to get proper leverage to fly out.

“They decided that rappelling down was really the best way,” she said.

That worked, she said, and the bird was safely taken into care at the centre southeast of Winnipeg.

Rescuers work out different ways they might free the bird from the base of the tower. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Rescuers told Nakata they found the remains of at least two other peregrine falcons inside the tower, so they assume this has happened before, minus the rescue.

Nakata has since learned that Telus has ordered the cap be sealed off so no other animal gets injured, she said. CBC reached out to Telus for comment on Sunday, but has not heard back.

The peregrine falcon is identified as an endangered species under Manitoba’s Endangered Species Act, which means it’s a native species in danger of disappearing through all or most of its range.

A rescuer reaches the top of a ladder alongside the cellphone tower where the bird was stuck. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

North American and European populations of peregrine falcons have suffered a “catastrophic decline” since the 1950s, the Manitoba Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project website says.

“We’re trying to make sure that these animals have a healthy population, so every one of them we save is actually quite impactful,” Nakata said.

The crow-sized bird of prey has a hooked beak, powerful claws and a keen eye, with long, pointed wings and quick wingbeats that distinguish it from a hawk and allow it to reach great speeds.

Recovering at rehabilitation centre

The rescued bird was dehydrated but did not appear to be injured, Nakata said. Her age is unknown.

“We’re working on getting her nice and strong so that she can be released back into the wild.”

This peregrine falcon is finally safe after the rescue from the depths of a cellphone tower in Winnipeg on Saturday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The bird will be released once she has fully recovered, in about two to six weeks, Nakata said.

The rehabilitation centre will work with the recovery project to see if they are interested in tagging her to follow her journey.

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