Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge biologist Romeo Garcia holds a 23-day old aplomado falcon nestling being prepared for banding. Photo by C. Perez/USFWS
Wildlife biologist Chris Perez shares some awesome news about the endangered northern Aplomado falcon.
Once considered common in its U.S. range, the northern Aplomado falcon declined rapidly after the 1930s and was considered extirpated in the United States by the late 1950s. The reason for their disappearance in South Texas is blamed on over-collection. At the time, egg collecting was a hobby much like stamp collecting; "oology" it was called. We protected it as an endangered species in 1986.
But even before that, our partners at The Peregrine Fund were hard at work on the restoration of the northern Aplomado falcon to South Texas. The Fund was working on captive breeding of the falcon and began experimental releases on Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Los Fresnos, Texas, in 1985.
So far, more than 1,500 young Aplomado falcons have been released in South Texas.
An Aplomado falcon in flight. Photo by Cal Sandfort, The Peregrine Fund
As a result of these efforts, this rare and attractive falcon has now been restored to its former South Texas range, and, according to Peregrine Fund biologists Paul Juergens and Brian Mutch, the 2016 nesting season has seen some of the highest territorial pairs and individual falcons to date.
Along the South Texas coastal landscape, a total of 37 territorial pairs and 93 individual falcons were documented. Numbers continue edging upward, bringing this endangered falcon closer to 60 self-sustaining pairs, the current goal to downlist the species to threatened, an impressive recovery from zero birds just 30-some years ago.
The Peregrine Fund continues to monitor the progress of recovery with assistance by our biologists. Despite new threats to their coastal prairie habitat such as wind farms and other development, it is clear the northern Aplomado falcon is now firmly established within the South Texas coastal prairie.