The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reintroduce the rare northern aplomado falcon back into its historical range in New Mexico. Falcons bred in captivity will be reintroduced to southern New Mexico and allowed to disperse into Arizona.
The falcons will be released in groups of 5-7 with the total annual release not to exceed 150 birds. The state lines of New Mexico and Arizona will form the boundaries for a new experimental population of the endangered northern aplomado falcon.
The reintroduction is part of a scheme create a viable population of the rare bird. The falcon was listed as endangered in 198, however as part of the experimental population, falcons in Arizona or New Mexico are no longer considered endangered, although they will have some protections under the Endangered Species Act. This designation allows greater flexibility for land managers where falcons occur. The re-introduction program will be evaluated every five years. Land within the falcon’s preferred habitat comprises 28.6 million acres. The falcons will come from The Peregrine Fund’s captive population that also supplies birds for the Service’s ongoing recovery efforts in Texas.
In partnership with The Peregrine Fund, more than 1,000 falcons have been released in Texas. To date, more than 244 young have successfully fledged. ‘We’ve had good success over the twenty years we’ve been putting birds in Texas, I expect the same outcome in New Mexico and Arizona.’
The falcon has been seen sporadically over the years in the two states but has only successfully nested once since the 1950’s – a time when pesticide contamination and habitat alteration caused severe population declines.
The northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis) is a subspecies of the aplomado falcon, and a member of the falcon family (Falconidae). It is smaller than a prairie falcon, and larger than the American kestrel and merlin. The northern aplomado falcon is readily identified by its bold facial pattern with a distinctive white stripe above the eye, a strongly banded tail, and brown ‘vest.’