SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (ValleyCentral) — For millennia the sun has been cresting over South Padre Island, and just as surf inexorably rushes to shore… Peregrine Falcons habitually soar along the coast during their spring and fall migrations.
For nearly half a century, researchers like Greg Doney with Earth Span have been chronicling this remarkable passage of raptors.
“This is our 46th annual Peregrine Falcon survey.”
Over the decades biologists have been monitoring the biannual migration along South Padre’s shore capturing, banding and releasing nearly 11,000 Tundra peregrines.
“Most of the birds moving thru here are from the northern tier of North America ranging from Alaska over to Greenland,” said Doney.
This young female falcon is only some three months old and has already flown approximately 3,000 miles from her nest site. She may migrate as far as South America flying more than 5,000 miles on her maiden fall flight.
The undeveloped stretch of beach and tidal flats stretching some 25 miles north of the town of South Padre Island is perhaps the most important site in the western hemisphere for peregrines to pursue their avian prey during migration from breeding grounds in the arctic to wintering grounds in South America.
The Peregrine Falcon almost vanished due to the harmful pesticide DDT, but with the banning of DDT in 1972 peregrines have rebounded dramatically and in 1999 were taken off the endangered species list.
In a joint effort between Earth Span and the Peregrine Fund, biologists continue to monitor the falcons’ recovery, including blood and feather sampling to detect other potentially harmful threats, representing one of the most successful and longest-running continuous field research projects in the world.
Peregrines can live for some 20 years in the wild, and one special female visiting South Padre has been documented at 19 years of age… just think of the incredible mileage that intrepid traveler covered in her lifetime.