Nov 23, 2012

American Peregrine

It was around 8 o'clock in the evening on Thanksgiving Day, when residents of a rural home in Watsonville heard rustling in a planter box outside. After all of their pets were accounted for, the young men of the family went to investigate and found a small raptor, unable to fly. Instinctively, they got a large towel, covered the bird completely, and carefully placed it into a cardboard cat carrier.

At about 8:00 AM this morning, WildRescue received an emergency page about the injured bird. A photo confirmed it to be an American peregrine falcon.

The peregrine falcon is a crow-sized predatory raptor found on nearly every continent. It is the fastest bird on the planet, attaining speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour in a stoop dive (video of these magnificent flyers, here).

The young male falcon was transported to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose. There it would receive a radiograph to determine the extent of its injuries and if it was, indeed, shot.

Upon admission the wound was cleaned, the bird was given pain medication and a dose of antibiotics. Check out the video(below) of its initial exam.

Should X-rays confirm the bird was shot, authorities will be contacted.

In the 1960's, peregrine falcon populations in the U.S. were in rapid decline due to the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). Peregrines were all but eliminated from the eastern U.S. and in the West, populations were reduced by 80 to 90 percent.

First synthesized in 1874, DDT was once considered a safe and effective insecticide, and was in wide use - worldwide - in the 40s and 50s. Although it was banned in 1972, residual amounts of DDT can be found in the environment.

Like all organochlorines, DDT is highly persistant, bioaccumulating and increasing in concentration as it moves up the food Chain. Apex predator species, like the brown pelican, bald eagle, and peregrine falcon, receive the most concentrated doses.

In birds of prey, waterfowl, and songbirds, DDT causes eggshell thinning, resulting in reproductive failure. This is what caused the rapid decline in the peregrines population in the 60's. In 1970, the peregrine falcon was the first to be listed on the federal Endangered Species List.

Thanks to collaborative recovery efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, Tom Cade and the Peregrine Fund, Midwestern Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project, and the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research, the American peregrine falcon population rebounded (read more about these efforts, HERE). In 1999, it was federally delisted, though remains an Endangered Species in certain states.

UPDATE 11-26-12

Today, experts at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley confirmed the falcon was shot. The projectile, likely a pellet, entered the chest and exited out the back. The bird is currently in stable condition and holding its wings tightly against its body - a good sign! The California Department of Fish and Game has been notified.
UPDATE 11-29-12

Unfortunately, radiographs revealed two fractures in the shoulder. The bird would never fly again and, if kept alive it would be in pain for the rest of its life. It was euthanized earlier today.

The California Department of Fish and Game (Wildlife) is continuing an investigation, hoping to find who shot the bird. Meanwhile, through generous pledges and donations, WildRescue is able to post a reward of $1,000.00 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for shooting the falcon. They can report anonymously through CalTip at 1-888-334-2258. Pledges to increase the reward amount should be sent to


AnnG said...

I haven't seen peregrines referred to as 'American' falcons before.

That is a very large juvenile falcon - perhaps a female? She is beautiful - I have high hopes for her recovery.

WildRescue said...

It's our understanding that the original subspecies of peregrine falcon to inhabit Canada, parts of Alaska and the continental U.S. is the American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum). The peregrines found today in the eastern part of the U.S., however, are descended from five subspecies bred in captivity and released as part of the recovery program.

melandsyd said...

What a beautiful Raptor. I pray that it recovers! Thank you for all you do for all of the wildlife WildRescue takes in..

stewartfalcon said...

There are three subspecies of peregrine in North America. The "anatum" or American peregrine falcon of the lower 48 states and parts of Canada; the "pealei" or Peales peregrine falcon of the Aleutian Chain to the Queen Charlotte Islands; and, the "tundrius" or Tundra peregrine falcon found north of the boreal forest. It is true that the eastern U. S. population was restored using breeding stock from all over the world since no members of the original eastern "rock peregrine" remained.

As their numbers increase, we find increasing numbers of peregrines injured, primarily as result of impacts with wires and other obstacles in our cluttered skies. If there are no broken bones, this one has a good chance for a speedy return to the wild. I will speak on the topic of husbandry, handling, and conditioning techniques for peregrine falcons and other raptors during rehabilitation on 1/26 at the Alexander Lindsay Museum. (shameless plug) --Glenn Stewart, UC Santa Cruz.

Rebecca Dmytryk / WildRescue said...

Wonderful. Thank you for clarifying this, Glenn - and for the announcement of your talk : )
We believe this bird was shot. We'll know more today. We have alerted authorities to the possibility.

AnnG said...

Oh! I wonder why I didn't know that 'Anatum' were considered 'American'.. Are 'Rock' peregrines also 'Anatum' or are they a different subspecies? Ya learn something new every day!

jeanne said...

I hope whoever did this is caught. This poor beautiful bird deserved to be flying free. Thank you for all you did to help save this magnificent raptor