Agencies Join Peregrine Fund to Restore Aplomado Falcons
Listed as endangered since 1986, Aplomado Falcons are returning to New Mexico thanks to the passion and dedication of federal and state agencies working with The Peregrine Fund.
Since 2006, The Peregrine Fund has released over 120 falcons at sites in southern New Mexico. Approximately 1,500 birds have been released on private lands at six locations in West Texas since the 1990s.
The recent releases are part of the US Fish and Wildlife's Nonessential Experimental Population designation under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. The New Mexico BLM has partnered with the USFWS in the development of the 10(j) ruling and the environmental assessment for re-establishment of falcons.
Further reintroduction efforts are planned in the coming years in efforts to achieve sustainable populations of Aplomado Falcons in their historic ranges.
On June 12, 2009, four young Aplomado Falcons were released on Delk Ranch outside of Deming, New Mexico. The event was the latest in The Peregrine Fund’s efforts to reintroduce falcons back to their native home.
The chicks, bred at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, were placed in custom-built wooden structures that will house and protect them from predators while they acclimate to their new home. After a few days, their door will be opened allowing them to fly out and search for food. Biologists hope the falcons will take to their new surroundings and begin breeding in the wild.
The release site, on public land for which Jimmy and Suanne Delk have a BLM grazing permit, is located approximately 25 miles northwest of the last recorded nest site in Luna County, New Mexico. A pair of falcons was last documented in that area in 2004. Prior to that, a nest had not been documented in that area since 1952. Only single birds have since been observed.
The Peregrine Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management hosted public meetings in Deming, NM during the spring of 2008. The purpose of the meetings was to explain the Peregrine Fund’s efforts, the recovery goals, and the proposal to release falcons in southwest New Mexico. Following the public meetings, Jimmy and Suanne Delk offered their ranch as a release site. The ranch was evaluated by biologists from the Peregrine Fund and BLM and found to be an excellent location.
This was a particularly special release for Peregrine Fund biologist Angel Montoya, who grew up in Deming. "Bringing the birds back to my hometown is certainly the highlight of my career,” said Montoya. “It's great to have the cooperation of the agencies like BLM and the State Land Office, but even more exciting when one has the support of folks on the ground."
Ray Lister, a Natural Resource Specialist with the BLM-Las Cruces Field Office, hailed the event as the culmination of long planning and many partnerships. “The recent release is an excellent example of cooperation between the Peregrine Fund, BLM, New Mexico State Land Office, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the livestock operator to re-establish falcons into their historic range,” said Lister.
In addition to the four chicks released today, another 100 falcons will be reintroduced at locations in Texas and southern New Mexico throughout the summer.
70 Aplomado Falcons were released into New Mexico this summer from two sites on Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch south of Socorro and one on the White Sands Missile Range, southeast of Socorro. A total of 50 falcons reached ‘independence,’ and are now flying free in New Mexico along with many of the birds released in 2006-2007.
In significant developments, biologists from the BLM and the Peregrine Fund have identified four pairs of adult birds in New Mexico, two on the Armendaris Ranch, one in the Lake Valley area, and another on Otero Mesa. The Peregrine Fund will continue its releases of Aplomado falcons in the coming years and is working with BLM to identify new release sites in southern New Mexico. The BLM is supporting the reintroduction effort via a 5-year grant of $100,000.
In related news, on September 2, 2008, the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque ruled in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Peregrine Fund, upholding the Service’s designation of the species as an experimental population in New Mexico, which will allow further reintroductions of the falcons to continue in our state.
Eighteen Aplomado falcon chicks reared in captivity began their life in the wild on July 6, at release sites south of Socorro, New Mexico. They were joined by another 11 chicks on July 18, with another ten ‘delivered’ on July 27.
This is the second year the endangered falcons have been reintroduced in New Mexico as part of a recovery effort involving the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White Sands Missile Range, and the New Mexico State Land Office. The falcons were hatched at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, which is breeding, releasing and monitoring the falcons.
“All of the partners worked for more than 10 years to make this recovery possible,” said Pete Jenny, president and CEO of The Peregrine Fund. “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 releases of 2007 took place on a site where lands managed by the BLM, State Land Office and White Sands Missile Range come together. Additional releases occurred on Ted Turner’s nearby Armendaris ranch, the site of last year’s release.
The BLM contributed funding and a site for this year’s releases. “Restoring New Mexico’s wildlife goes hand in hand with restoring landscapes and protecting our natural heritage,” said Linda Rundell, BLM-New Mexico State Director.
Also this summer, 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 2-3 years old.
Aplomado falcons were once widespread in the American Southwest, from southern Texas to eastern Arizona. By the 1950s their range was restricted to a few areas in Mexico, due to the effects of habitat changes, pesticides and human persecution.
The Peregrine Fund has overseen the Aplomado falcon recovery effort that’s been in place since 1993 in Texas, where falcons are now commonly seen by bird enthusiasts. There are now about 50 pairs of the birds thriving in South and West Texas, plus the pair in New Mexico. The falcons in New Mexico are being released as an experimental, non-essential population, which allows more flexibility under the Endangered Species Act.