LightHawk Flies Rare Aplomado Chicks to Southwest
7 July 2009A group of rare Aplomado Falcon chicks will arrive in Deming, N.M., on Thursday, 2 July, courtesy of LightHawk, an organization of volunteer pilots who donate their time and planes to help protect land, water, and wildlife. The month-old falcon chicks will arrive from Boise aboard a Cessna 340 piloted by Brent Blue of Jackson, Wyoming.
Founded in 1979, LightHawk is the largest and oldest volunteer-based environmental aviation organization in North America. The group flies more than 700 missions each year for about 300 conservation partners.
"LightHawk and our volunteer pilots are delighted to play a part in The Peregrine Fund's species reintroduction efforts," said Laura Stone, LightHawk's Rockies program manager. "Thanks to the generosity of our volunteer pilots, who donate their time, airplanes, and fuel to make these flights possible, LightHawk is able to work in partnership with groups like The Peregrine Fund to use the power of flight as a catalyst for environmental conservation."
LightHawk is providing three flights this summer to transport Aplomado chicks to release sites in the Southwest. The chicks are produced at The Peregrine Fund's breeding facilities at its World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.
"We are extremely grateful to LightHawk for being part of this effort to restore the Aplomado to the desert Southwest," said Bill Heinrich, species restoration manager for The Peregrine Fund, which heads the recovery project. "This is a good example of two conservation organizations working cooperatively to recover a species."
The falcon chicks will be placed at release sites near Lordsburg and Truth or Consequences, N.M. This land contains the wide-open yucca grasslands that Aplomado Falcons need to survive. As part of the restoration effort, The Peregrine Fund plans to release 115 falcons in New Mexico and West Texas this summer. Eight chicks were released to the wild at a site near Deming, N.M., on 17 June.
Deming is the last place the birds were known to nest before they disappeared from the American Southwest in 1952. The Peregrine Fund began releasing Aplomado Falcons in 2006 in New Mexico, where there are now four breeding pairs. Falcons also are being released this year on private ranches in West Texas. The Peregrine Fund started the Aplomado Falcon recovery program in 1993 in South Texas, where there is now a sustainable population.
"Donations like those provided by LightHawk are always essential to our success, but never more so than in this economy," Heinrich said. "This allows us to put even more of our resources toward making sure these birds once again occupy their ecological niche in the New Mexico landscape."
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