Endangered Falcons Headed for the Wilds of New Mexico
9 July 2007Eleven Aplomado Falcon chicks bred and reared in captivity will begin their life in the wild on Friday, 6 July, at a remote release site south of Socorro, New Mexico. This is the second year that the endangered falcons will be reintroduced in New Mexico as part of a joint recovery effort involving federal, state, and private partners.
"All the partners worked hard for more than 10 years to make this recovery possible," said Pete Jenny, president and CEO of The Peregrine Fund, a conservation organization that recovers birds of prey throughout the world. "We are delighted to be part of this project and hope the bird will be a common sight throughout the Southwest in the years ahead."
The first release will take place on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Land Office and White Sands Missile Range. Additional releases will occur this summer on the private Armendaris Ranch.
"We are thrilled to contribute funding and a site for this year's releases," said Linda Rundell, New Mexico State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. "Restoring New Mexico's wildlife goes hand in hand with restoring our landscapes and protecting our natural heritage."
The 35-day-old falcons were hatched at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. The organization also produced the chicks that were released in 2006, the first year of the New Mexico recovery effort.
"My administration has had tremendous success restoring habitat on state trust lands for at-risk species and this project is consistent with the mission of the State Land Office to enhance wildlife health and diversity," said Patrick Lyons, Commissioner of Public Lands. "I commend The Peregrine Fund for its efforts and thank them for including my team in the Aplomado Falcon project."
Earlier this month, biologists were pleasantly surprised to discover that a pair of falcons released last year had successfully laid eggs and produced two chicks. Normally, the birds don't reproduce until they are two to three years old.
Aplomado Falcons once were widespread in the American Southwest, from southern Texas to eastern Arizona. By the 1950s their range was restricted to a few areas in Mexico, most likely due to the combined effects of habitat changes, pesticides, and human persecution.
The Peregrine Fund has overseen the Aplomado Falcon recovery effort that has been in place since 1993 in Texas, where falcons are now commonly seen by bird enthusiasts. A substantial population of Aplomado Falcons is now established in South Texas and the focus has shifted to West Texas, where birds have been released on numerous private ranches since 2002. These efforts also are starting to bear fruit. Biologists have located at least five falcon pairs and two nests and the first fledging of wild young birds was observed in West Texas for the first time in almost a century.
The falcons in New Mexico are being released as an experimental, non-essential population, which allows more flexibility in Endangered Species Act regulations. However, it remains illegal to shoot or intentionally harass the birds or take their eggs.
On 6 July, the chicks will be placed at the release site on the western edge of the White Sands Missile Range. Their home will be in a "hack box" on a platform raised several feet off the ground to protect them from predators. In a few days, the door will be opened and the birds will be able to come and go freely. They will be fed at the hack site for several months while they practice flying and become proficient enough as flyers and hunters to survive on their own.
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