First Aplomado Falcon Reintroduction Slated for Early August in New Mexico
27 July 2006The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Peregrine Fund, an Idaho-based nonprofit organization, will reintroduce 11 Northern Aplomado Falcons on 3 August in south-central New Mexico. The release signifies the beginning of the Service's plan to recover the rare northern aplomado falcon back into its historical range.
Falcons born in captivity will be released in southern New Mexico and allowed to disperse into Arizona under a special provision in the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Service announced on Tuesday (26 July).
The release will occur on the Armendaris Ranch east of Truth or Consequences. The 300,000 acre ranch, owned by Ted Turner, is managed by Turner Enterprises in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner while conserving native species. The Turner Endangered Species Fund is also involved in the falcon project. The Fund is dedicated to conserving biodiversity by ensuring the persistence of imperiled species and their habitats with an emphasis on reintroduction as a means for restoring wildlife populations to their natural areas.
The falcons will come from The Peregrine Fund's captive propagation facility in Idaho. The same facility also supplies birds for the Service's ongoing recovery efforts in Texas. The Peregrine Fund is an organization established to conserve birds of prey in nature.
Newly hatched falcon chicks are raised in sibling groups with minimal human exposure. At about 32 to 37 days of age they are taken to a reintroduction location, also called a "hack" site. Falcons arrive at the hack site in crates approved by veterinarians and provisioned with food. At the hack site, falcons are placed in a protective box on top of the hack tower and fed for up to 10 days.
The 11 falcons slated for reintroduction in New Mexico will be split between two hack towers on the Armendaris Ranch. On 3 August, the hack tower boxes will be opened. The 11 falcons will be allowed to come and go freely. Food is provided on the tower, and initially, the falcons return each day to feed. Peregrine Fund hack site attendants care for and continuously monitor the young until the birds achieve independence. The young falcons are fed quail. Notes about the falcon's behavior and movements are recorded. Eventually, the falcons begin chasing prey, making their own kills, and spending more and more time away from the hack site. A falcon is considered to be "successfully released" when it is no longer dependent on food provided at the hack site. The process generally takes from three to six weeks but can be extended to ensure a successful reintroduction. If a bird does not attain independence, it may be returned to the propagation facility in Boise.
In New Mexico falcons will be released in groups of five to seven similarly aged nestlings at multiple hack towers, with the total anticipated annual release not to exceed 150 birds. Within a single year, up to 20 falcons could be released from one hack tower. Allowing multiple releases from a single tower increases the chances to establishing breeding pairs and also allows falcons reintroduced later to learn from successfully fledged individuals already established in the general vicinity. Juvenile falcons are somewhat gregarious.
The Service anticipates releasing falcons for 10 years or more and will evaluate the program every five years. The program is supported by several federal and state agencies, conservation groups, agricultural entities and private landowners within the release area.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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