Private Stewardship in Texas
Aplomado falcons are magnificent looking birds adorned with steel-gray wings, a long dark tail, and white eyestripes. Until recently, aplomados only inhabited the desert grasslands and savannas of Latin America, after being extirpated from their historical habitat of grasslands and coastal prairies of Texas, New Mexico, and southeastern Arizona. The last known breeding of the species occurred in 1941. However, the initiative of a private non-profit organization, The Peregrine Fund, is changing this. The Peregrine Fund is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1970 at Cornell University in response to the catastrophic decline of the peregrine falcon. The efforts to save this species resulted in breakthroughs in the field of endangered species research.
The Peregrine Fund initiated a recovery plan for the aplomado falcon in 1982 after they discovered a remnant population in southern Mexico. The Mexican government permitted The Peregrine Fund to take ten young Aplomado Falcon chicks from ten different nests. As the breeding stock matured, methods for reintroducing the birds into the wild were developed, allowing The Peregrine Fund to initiate a pilot study in 1985.
The pilot study helped perfect techniques for releasing captive-bred falcons into the wild, ushering in the release phase of the restoration program in 1993. This phase began with the release of 26 young falcons on federally owned property in south Texas known as the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Subsequent releases have been made on this sight and are also occurring on Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge and on a private ranch. As of 1996, 101 aplomado falcons had been released of which 72, or 71 percent, had successfully reached independence. Over the next ten to fifteen years, The Peregrine Fund plans to expand the program west into New Mexico and Arizona.
Source: Creating Partnerships for the Protection of Rare Species (forthcoming)