Presentation on theme: "Mustang Island State Park - Aplomado Falcon Project July 1, 2012 On July 1, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in partnership with The Peregrine Fund,"— Presentation transcript:
Mustang Island State Park - Aplomado Falcon Project July 1, 2012 On July 1, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in partnership with The Peregrine Fund, an Idaho-based conservation organization focused on birds of prey, began release of captive-bred Aplomado Falcons at Mustang Island State Park to take advantage of additional habitat that the endangered birds of prey need to survive. Photos by Ben Horstmann, TPWD
The birds were raised in captivity at The Peregrine Funds World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Fifteen Aplomado Falcon hatchlings were transported to South Texas by LightHawk, a volunteer aviation group that donates flights for conservation projects. Over the past three years, LightHawk has transported more than 200 Aplomado Falcon chicks to support the reintroduction effort. This flight was donated by Carl Mattson and Julie Boyd, of Denver, Colorado, who piloted their 1974 Cessna Centurion 210 turbo.
Brian Mutch, project manager and biologist with The Peregrine Fund, greets Lighthawk volunteer pilot Carl Mattson at the airport. The flight from Boise took 10 hours and required refueling in Nucla, Colorado and Sonora, Texas. Fuel donated by Mattson and Boyd cost approximately $3,300 and the total trip will take them three days. They arrived at Mustang Beach Airport at 6:30 p.m. on July 1, 2012, after dodging thunderstorms near San Antonio.
A biologist with The Peregrine Fund carries one of five boxes containing Aplomado hatchlings from the airplane to a waiting truck, while Beau Hardegree, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, waits for the next box. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service paved the way for this project having partnered with The Peregrine Fund to release Aplomado Falcons at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex - Matagorda Island and at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Currently there are about 34 nesting pairs of Aplomado Falcons in South Texas.
The birds were released at sites on the bay side of Mustang Island State Park. Aplomado Falcons require open grasslands and savannahs where tall cacti and yuccas grow in open stands. They nest in old stick nests of hawks and other birds constructed in tall yuccas and lay usually two or three eggs.
The chicks were placed in newly constructed hack sites, each consisting of a large wooden box with screen on one side atop a platform raised feet off the ground for protection from predators. The birds will be watched and fed by attendants while they become accustomed to their new surroundings.
The chicks were carefully removed from the transport boxes and placed into the enclosure. In a few days, the door will be opened and the birds will be able to fly freely. They will continue to be fed and monitored at the hack site by the attendants for seven weeks while they hone their flying and hunting skills until they are able to survive on their own.
Each chick screeched loudly for a few seconds as it was taken from the box but they quickly settled down. The leg bands have identifying information.
Aplomado Falcons have sharp beaks and talons and feed primarily on small birds and insects caught in the air. This little one took a quick nip at Brians finger before being photographed and placed in the enclosure.
Each bird posed for photographs before being placed into the enclosure.
If these young birds survive they may nest and rear their own young in the area.
Four young birds resting inside the enclosure. The box has perches and pea gravel on the floor. The back of the box has bars, wire mesh and solar screen to keep out predators. The hack site attendants stay with the chicks for seven weeks. After that the young adults will be monitored occasionally. If successful, some of these birds may remain in the area and become nesting pairs. More chicks are planned to be released later in July 2012 and again in the summer of 2013.