Aplomado Falcon Chicks to be Released Near Deming, N.M., Where the Last Pair Nested in 1952 Before Recovery Began
9 June 2009Eight rare Northern Aplomado Falcons are soon heading to Deming, N.M., the last place the birds were known to nest before they disappeared from the American Southwest in 1952. The Peregrine Fund will place the chicks at the new Deming site 12 June and release them to the wild on 17 June.
The 30-38-day-old falcons--produced at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho--are part of a continuing effort that began in 1993 to restore the raptor to its native Southwest habitat. The Peregrine Fund started the Aplomado Falcon recovery program in South Texas, where there is now a sustainable population. The program was expanded to West Texas in 2002 and to New Mexico in 2006.
This historical release has special meaning to Peregrine Fund biologist Angel Montoya, a native of Deming.
"In 1990, while working as a student intern at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, I became aware that the last known nest for this falcon was right in my hometown," Montoya said. "It was then and there that I decided to find out more about the falcon. Since then, I have been working to re-establish the Aplomado in New Mexico."
The chicks will be placed in a large box on a hack tower, where they will be fed and monitored. The box is about 15 feet off the ground on a 10-foot square platform to help protect them from predators. After the chicks are released, biologists will continue to feed and monitor them on the hack tower while the falcons practice flying and become proficient enough hunters to survive on their own later this summer.
The site is located on land that cattle ranchers Jimmy and Suanne Delk of Deming lease from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and New Mexico State Land Office. The land contains the wide-open yucca grasslands that Aplomado Falcons need to survive.
For more than 20 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has collaborated with The Peregrine Fund, private landowners, and state and federal agencies to return the Northern Aplomado Falcon to its historic range in New Mexico and Texas. In 2007, biologists were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of newly hatched chicks to a pair of one-year-old falcons that had been reintroduced on the private Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico the previous summer. In 2008, four pairs of young falcons were observed in New Mexico--two on the Armendaris Ranch, one in the Lake Valley area, and another on Otero Mesa.
"We consider these observations to be positive signs that the reintroduction program in New Mexico may be beginning to work," said Dr. Patricia Zenone, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aplomado Falcon project manager. "Reintroducing Aplomado Falcons in the southwestern region of New Mexico will significantly expand the area in which captive-bred falcons have been located thus far. Throughout all of these efforts, we have been very fortunate to have great support and collaboration from so many private and public partners."
Additional reintroductions of Aplomado Falcons are planned for several more years in southern New Mexico and west Texas, with the goal to re-establish self-sustaining populations in the species' historic range in the United States.
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