Three Rescued Aplomado Falcon Chicks Released to Wild

21 June 2008
A cooperative landowner and quick work by Peregrine Fund biologists ensured that three endangered Aplomado Falcon chicks would eventually fly free in the grasslands of Texas.

The future of the birds came into question in late April before they had even hatched. While clearing land for a new Texas development, a sharp-eyed contractor noticed a nest of endangered Aplomado Falcons in the path of his bulldozer. He contacted the landowner and soon Peregrine Fund biologists were on the scene to rescue three eggs from the nest before it was destroyed.
    
Bill Heinrich, The Peregrine Fund's species restoration manager, hand-carried the salvaged eggs in a portable incubator aboard a flight back to the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, where the eggs hatched on 3 May. After a month of careful rearing and feeding, three healthy chicks were taken back to Texas, placed in a hack box to safely acclimate to their new surroundings, and released to the wild on 11 June.

"We're now three birds closer to establishing a wild, self-sustaining population of Aplomado Falcons in the Southwest, where they flourished a century ago," said Henrich. "We look forward to the day when these falcons can be taken off the Endangered Species List."

Fortunately for the young birds, the site their parents had chosen for a nest operates under a Safe Harbor Agreement. These innovative pacts between The Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners open up critical habitat for the birds while giving landowners protection from certain liabilities under the Endangered Species Act. The Peregrine Fund has helped enroll two million acres in the Safe Harbor program in South and West Texas.

As part of the rescue effort, the biologists set up an artificial nest structure at a safe distance from the new construction.

"I checked back later that day after the old nest was removed and found the male perched on the new nest box and the female very close to it," said Paul Juergens, a biologist working on the Aplomado Falcon recovery project in Texas. "It was a promising sign that they were interested in utilizing their new quarters for a possible re-nest attempt."

On a recent follow-up visit, Juergens found that the relocation effort had indeed succeeded. He saw the female incubating a second clutch of eggs in the nest box. He expects those eggs to hatch by the end of June.

"This was a wonderful example of how Safe Harbor Agreements along with adaptive management techniques like placing artificial nest structures and reintroduction via hacking can work so well for all involved, including the falcons especially, toward the common goal of recovery," Juergens said.

The birds were once common in the American Southwest but had largely disappeared by 1930. The Aplomado Falcon was placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1986.

The Peregrine Fund has released nearly 1,400 captive-bred Aplomado Falcons in South and West Texas and in New Mexico since 1993. A self-sustaining population of 50 pairs has been established in South Texas. The recovery effort is now focused on West Texas and southern New Mexico.

For more information, contact:

Erin Katzner

Director of Global Engagement
Main Phone: 208-362-3716
Direct Phone: 208-362-8277
The Peregrine Fund