Department of the Interior

Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release:
August 1, 2006
Hugh Vickery, DOI
(202) 501-4633
Elizabeth Slown, FWS
(505) 248-6909


Secretary Kempthorne, Sen. Domenici Highlight Reintroduction of Northern Aplomado Falcons to New Mexico

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Sen. Pete Domenici today highlighted the latest step in one of the country’s most successful endangered species recovery programs – the reintroduction of the aplomado falcon to New Mexico on Thursday.

The release of the birds, the only domestic falcons still listed as endangered, builds upon a highly successful reintroduction effort in Texas during the past decade and will move the species closer to restoration throughout its historic range in the southwestern United States.

“With this reintroduction, aplomado falcons will once again soar in the skies over New Mexico,” Kempthorne said. “The reintroduction of the falcon to Texas in the mid-1990s demonstrated the power of cooperative conservation to recover threatened and endangered species. We fully expect the same spirit of partnership to bring this graceful raptor back to New Mexico.”

“I appreciate Secretary Kempthorne’s involvement in this matter,” said Domenici, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I have worked hard for many years to obtain federal funds to support efforts to reintroduce the aplomado falcon to New Mexico, and I’m very pleased that we’ve reached a point where it is happening. The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked with the Peregrine Fund to set up a sensible plan for reintroduction based on cooperation, and I look forward to the day where a self-sustaining falcon population will once again roam our skies.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Peregrine Fund, an Idaho-based nonprofit organization, will reintroduce 11 northern aplomado falcons in south-central New Mexico on Thursday.

In the mid-1990s, no one had seen an aplomado falcon in the United States for decades. A small remaining population existed in Mexico. Working in cooperation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, The Peregrine Fund, the state of Texas and many other partners, including private landowners who agreed to have birds released on their property, reintroduced the species to Texas in 1995. The state now has a fast-growing population.

The Service and The Peregrine Fund will release the 11 falcons on the Armenderis Ranch east of Truth or Consequences. The 300,000 acre ranch, owned by Ted Turner, is managed by Turner Enterprises in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner while conserving native species.

The falcons will come from The Peregrine Fund’s captive propagation facility in Idaho. The same facility also supplies birds for the Service’s ongoing recovery efforts in Texas. The Service anticipates releasing falcons at the site for at least the next 10 years and will evaluate the program every five years.

The Service has provided funds to The Peregrine Fund under the Private Stewardship Grant program, which was established under the Bush Administration. More than $530,000 in grants has been awarded since 2003.

In addition, Sen. Domenici sponsored $150,000 in additional appropriations this year, which boosts federal financial support for northern aplomado falcon reintroduction and recovery to $682,064.

Since so much of the land in Texas is privately owned, the Service works with private landowners to reintroduce falcons using Safe Harbor agreements. These agreements allow individuals to participate in endangered species recovery.

New Mexico’s equal mix of private and federal lands called for a different approach to encourage falcon recovery. The northern aplomado falcons in New Mexico will be considered an experimental, non-essential population. This method allows the Service to introduce falcons into their historical range under more flexible regulations.

In both states, the falcon will be protected from intentional take or harm; however, in New Mexico, there are no land use restrictions.

The northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis) once occupied a significant portion of the American Southwest. Often hunting cooperatively in pairs, this strikingly beautiful falcon feeds on medium-sized birds, insects, and bats. Prior to the 1930s, this species was regarded as fairly common throughout the humid coastal savannas and interior grasslands of northern Mexico, southern Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

The bird disappeared beginning in the 1930s for undetermined reasons, possibly due to changes in its habitat.

The 11 falcons slated for reintroduction in New Mexico will be split between two hack towers on the Armendaris Ranch. On August 3, the hack tower boxes will be opened. The young falcons will be allowed to come and go freely. Biologists will provide food on the tower, and initially, the falcons will return each day to feed.

Eventually, the falcons will begin chasing prey, making their own kills, and spending more and more time away from the hack site.

A falcon is considered to be “successfully released” when it is no longer dependent on food provided at the hack site. The process generally takes from three to six weeks but can be extended to ensure a successful reintroduction. If a bird does not attain independence, it may be returned to The Peregrine Fund propagation facility in Boise.

- DOI -