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Locally Rescued Peregrine Falcon Released

Friday, January 6, 2006

Have you ever wondered what goes into bringing a species back from the brink of extinction or how important every individual is to that helping that species recover? On November 22, 2005 Wildlife Rescue, Inc. (WRI) received an adult male Peregrine Falcon. This particular bird was found on the athletic field at Palo Alto High School after an apparent collision. At the time of discovery, the bird could not stand and had a dime size impact wound on its chest. Labored breathing and a few abrasions to the wing kept this large falcon grounded.

After more than a month in rehabilitation, Wildlife Rescue volunteers today released this 15-year old falcon back into the wild to continue his life flying free and perhaps contribute to the success of the reintroduction of the Peregrine Falcon in California.

Peregrine Falcons are marvelous, handsome, swift-winged predators that in 1999 were removed from the Federal Endangered Species list in 1999, but are still considered to be “endangered” in California. The Peregrine Falcon is one of nature's swiftest and most beautiful birds of prey. Its name comes from the Latin word peregrinus, meaning "foreigner" or "traveler." This impressive species has long been noted for its speed, grace, and aerial skills. It is also a symbol of America's recovering threatened and endangered species. Peregrine falcons feed primarily on other birds, such as songbirds, shorebirds, ducks, and-in urban areas-starlings and pigeons. Flying high above their intended prey, peregrines will "stoop" or dive and strike in mid-air, killing the prey with a sharp blow. Scientists estimate the speed of a diving peregrine to be more than 200 miles per hour.

It is fascinating enough just having a Peregrine Falcon come into WRI, the small wildlife rehabilitation group based in Palo Alto, whose mission is to return orphaned and injured animals to the wild. But of even more notable interest, this bird was wearing two identification bands which revealed a unique history. A US Fish and Wildlife Service aluminum band graces his left leg, while a visual identification band (VID), black with large silver numbers, sits on his right leg. The black band with large silver numbers shows a 2 above a downward pointing 3, prompting us to refer to this individual as 2/3. The numbered aluminum Federal band tracked this bird to the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG), providing an insight into the truly fascinating history of this bird as related by Glenn R. Stewart, a researcher with this group.

According to information provided by Mr. Stewart’s colleague, Janet Linthicum, this falcon’s mother was the product of a pair of one of Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group's (SCPBRG) earliest breeding pairs, Strawberry and Cid. The mother was fostered into the Morro Rock nest in 1983. She eventually bred at a nest in northern Big Sur in 1990. The unhatched eggs were removed from wild Peregrine nests due to DDT causing eggshell thinning. 2/3 was hatched in 1990 at the SCPBRG lab and fostered into a prairie falcon nest on Mt. Diablo, a similar falcon species in California. (That nest is now currently occupied by Peregrine Falcons). 2/3 was originally banded with a size 7 band (female), most likely because he was a big guy, as females are larger than males. However, as an adult, it was determined that the falcon was a male. 2/3 was trapped as an adult at a nest in the Diablo-Hamilton range in 1995 and his female sized band was replaced with a male (size 6) band. The 2/3 VID (band with silver numbers) band was added at that time. He was seen in the winter perched on the Sun Microsystems building in Santa Clara in 2002-03 in the company of a female. A nest box was built and installed on the roof and hopes were high that the pair would nest here, but the nest box has not been used as of yet. This information demonstrates the level of detail that exists in the SCPBRG database for the California peregrine population.

Special thanks to Dr. Kenton Taylor of the Miramonte Veterinary Hospital for donating his expertise and services for the initial examination and treatment of this falcon, also to Dr. Jane Johnson-Ricker of the Adobe Animal Hospital for follow-up care. Both veterinary facilities are located in Los Altos. Thank you to Ken Elvin of Mountain View and Patric Kearns of Los Altos Hills, for their donation of special food for this falcon. And a very special thanks to Wildlife Rescue’s Karen Hoyt, the Raptor Team Co-leader, who has taken care of the bird since November.

About Wildlife Rescue
Wildlife Rescue, Inc (WRI), in its 31st year as a non-profit 501©(3) organization, is focused on the rescue, rehabilitation and release of local wildlife, caring for animals in the cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills. WRI has over 200 local volunteers helping out at its small clinic on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, by caring for injured animals, providing home care, answering phones to assist local residents with wildlife questions, and speaking to groups of children about wildlife.

Each year, Wildlife Rescue receives more than 2,100 injured or orphaned birds and mammals at the clinic in Palo Alto on Middlefield Road in the Cubberly Community Center. WRI’s goal is to rehabilitate the animals and release them back to the wild. The clinic is open to receive animals seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm year round. In addition, the Urban Wildlife Hotline (650-494-SAVE) is staffed from 10 am to 8 pm every day. WRI’s primary sources of income are membership, grants, donations and fundraising activities. WRI receives no money from state or federal government, but does receive very limited funding from the cities of Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills. In June 2005, the cities of Mountain View and Palo Alto significantly reduced their contract support and Wildlife Rescue is investigating alternative funding sources to compensate. If you would like to donate to Wildlife Rescue, please call 650-494-SAVE.

WRI volunteers have donated thousands of hours of their time to the rehabilitation of local birds and mammals. In 2003 and 2004 alone, a combined total of over 27,000 hours have been volunteered by individual volunteers. WRI is always looking for dedicated volunteers 18 years and older to join the busy season from March - September of each year, and for 15-17 years old to volunteer from June-August. If you are interested in volunteering in the shelter, office, or as a board member, please call 650-494-7926.

About The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group
The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group is a self-funded member of the UC Santa Cruz research community and played a primary role in the peregrine recovery by breeding peregrines for release, managing the wild population by hatching thin-shelled eggs and fostering young into wild nests in addition to hack site releases. A little over 1,000 birds have been released since 1975 and the population has increased from 2 known pairs in 1970 to an estimated 250 pairs today. More information is available about this at

The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research group is planning a large survey of peregrines in 2006. If any one observes a Peregrine nest in Spring 2006, the SCPBRG would be very interested in hearing about it so that the information can be added to their database. A protocol for observation, description of breeding behaviors, and observation form may be found at their web site, at the peregrine survey button. Nest site confidentiality is guaranteed and a site is given a region/number that is used to describe it. Information on the nest is reported in the context of how many nests per region are known to be occupied.


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