Gatineau Park is a natural treasure of Canada’s Capital Region and a habitat for many species at risk. As Gatineau Park biologists, my colleagues and I help ensure the protection of these species.
The peregrine falcon
The peregrine falcon, a bird of prey at the top of its food chain, is a species at risk. This raptor feeds mainly on smaller birds. It builds its nest on cliffs where it can perch.
This majestic bird species is designated vulnerable in Quebec and of special concern in Canada. In the 1950s and 1960s, the widespread use of the pesticide DDT caused a radical decline in peregrine falcon populations.
This potent pesticide infiltrated the food consumed by falcons, and compromised its reproduction by causing it to produce thin eggshells. The population of peregrine falcons in Canada was seriously affected until the 1970s, when use of the pesticide was banned in Canada and the United States.
The return of the peregrine falcon
After surviving through many difficult years, the peregrine falcon has made a comeback. In April 2010, a Park employee and scientific researchers reported having observed a couple.
Equipped with powerful binoculars and a telescope, student biologists working for the Park have been in the field monitoring for several weeks during the summer, in order to document the presence of peregrine falcons at their nesting site on the Eardley Escarpment.
Each year since 2010, the Park’s student biologists do follow-up monitoring to update the data gathered, and ensure the effectiveness of the protection measures that are in place.
In Gatineau Park, the peregrine falcon’s nesting season, including the raising of its young, extends from April until August. During this period, the Park’s team of biologists focus particularly on the protection of this species, which is very sensitive to human interference. Human presence can disturb a peregrine falcon couple, which, when agitated, could cause the eggs to fall out of the nest before the chicks have hatched. Frightened chicks may try to fly too soon and die as a result of falling. Repeated disturbances can cause the couple to abandon the nesting site to which peregrine falcons usually return year after year.
The NCC has established measures to protect peregrine falcon nesting sites in Gatineau Park, because of the fragility of these important habitats. These measures are similar to numerous other measures established to protect other natural environments.
Following spring 2021 monitoring, we have installed signage panels on the Eardley Escarpment to protect the nesting sites. Please consult the maps of the areas closed in 2021 and stay on the official trails at all times. We closely monitor the site, and may close additional areas throughout the season.
Remember that paragliding and hang gliding are not permitted in Gatineau Park. The Park is home to many species sensitive to human disturbance, including the peregrine falcon that nests on the Eardley Escarpment.
Canada’s Capital Region is very fortunate to have such a treasure as Gatineau Park, and especially because it provides a habitat for such an interesting species at risk as the peregrine falcon.