RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — It’s a milestone in the remarkable recovery of one of the Rio Grande Valley’s most endangered species. The endangered Aplomado falcon is being restored to its historic range in South Texas, and there are now at least 24 breeding pairs scattered across the Coastal prairie from the Rio Grande to Matagorda Island.
The rare falcon vanished from South Texas some 75 years ago due to habitat loss, egg collecting and the advent of harmful pesticides. In 1978 the Peregrine Fund began a captive breeding program from nestlings collected from several populations in Mexico.
The propagation effort was so successful that some 1,000 captive bred falcons have been released since 1993, with 2013 marking the final release in southernmost Texas. In a cooperative effort between the Peregrine Fund, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners the falcons are recovering and once again soaring across the coastal prairie of southernmost Texas.
Brian Parish, Conservation Director Peregrine Fund, “The cooperative nature of this type of program is what I think is most impressive.”
Biologists with the Peregrine Fund recently reached a milestone as they banded the 500th nestling, a young female raised on Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge property east of Brownsville.
Brian Mutch, Biologist Peregrine Fund, “It’s the 500th bird, Aplomado we are going to band, since the first one we banded in 1995, so that is a pretty good milestone.”
After carefully removing the young from specially crafted artificial nest boxes, biologists next band the nestlings and take a small blood sample.
Paul Jurergens, Biologist Peregrine Fund, “I have been working on this project since 2003 and to band the 500th wild hatched nestling in South Texas is rather rewarding.”
“We have recovered a small population of falcons that seem to be self-sustaining, so we are pretty excited about it.” Says Brian Mutch.
The ultimate goal is to delist the Aplomado, and biologists are currently assessing the number of falcons that will enable them to propose removal of the birds from the endangered species list.