2001 Newsletter - The Peregrine Fund


2001 Newsletter - The Peregrine Fund



to conserve

birds of prey

in nature

summer/fall 2001

newsletter number 32

Imagine a world


…the next generation.

Photo by Bill Burnham

One Hundred Percent of All Donations Go Directly to Programs!

The Peregrine Fund is working to conserve birds of prey around the world. All of our programs

are dependent upon contributions. Help preserve future generations of birds of prey. Make a

tax-deductible contribution to The Peregrine Fund today. To learn more, visit our web site.


Business Office (208)362-3716

Fax (208)362-2376

Interpretive Center (208)362-8687



The Peregrine Fund will soon be constructing a new

collections building at our location in Boise, Idaho.

With the addition of this new building our mailing

address is changing. Our new mailing address is

5668 West Flying Hawk Lane, Boise, Idaho 83709.


United States

Linda Behrman

Roy Britton

Bill Burnham

Kurt K. Burnham

Pat Burnham

Jack Cafferty

Jeff Cilek

MaryAnn Edson

Nancy Freutel

Bill Heinrich

Grainger Hunt

J. Peter Jenny

Russ Jones

Lloyd Kiff

Paul Malone

Kim Middleton

Angel Montoya

Amel Mustic

Brian Mutch

Trish Nixon

Shaun Olmstead

Nedim Omerbegovic

Sophie Osborn

Chris Parish

Carol Pettersen

Dalibor Pongs

Rob Rose

Cal Sandfort

Randy Stevens

Russell Thorstrom

Randy Townsend

Rick Watson

Dave Whitacre

Chris Woods


S. Kent Carnie


D. James Nelson

Chairman of the Board

President, Nelson

Construction Company

Paxson H. Offield

Vice Chairman of the


President and CEO,

Santa Catalina Island


William A. Burnham,



J. Peter Jenny

Vice President

Jeffrey R. Cilek

Vice President

Karen J. Hixon



Ronald C. Yanke


President, Yanke

Machine Shop, Inc.


Aristide Andrianarimisa

Francisco Barrios

Adrien Batou

Be Berthin

Noel Augustin Bonhomme

Eloi (Lala) Fanameha

Martin Gilbert

Noel Guerra

Ron Hartley

Kathia Herrera

Mia Jessen

Herman A. Jordan

Loukman Kalavaha

Eugéne Ladoany

Magaly Linares

Jose Lopez

Jules Mampiandra


Angel Muela

Charles Rabearivelo (Vola)

Berthine Rafarasoa

Norbert Rajaonarivelo

Jeannette Rajesy

Gérard Rakotondravao

Yves Rakotonirina

Norbert Rajaonarivelo

Gaston Raoelison



Lova Jacquot Razanakoto

Lily-Arison Rene

de Roland

Leonardo Salas

Simon Thomsett

Gilbert Tohaky

Ursula Valdez

Jose Vargas

Munir Virani


Tom J. Cade, Ph.D.

Founding Chairman

Professor Emeritus of

Ornithology, Cornell


Roy E. Disney

Chairman of the Board,


Vice Chairman, The

Walt Disney Company

Chairman of the Board,

Shamrock Holdings, Inc.

Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

Chairman of the Board,


Chairman and Chief

Executive Officer, The

Goldman Sachs Group,


Julie A. Wrigley

Chairman of the Board,


Chairman and CEO,

Wrigley Investments LLC




Our colleagues around the world respond to the tragedy of September 11 . . . . . . . . .2

Aplomado Falcon Recovery

Captive-bred falcons get some extra protection from predators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

California Condor Restoration

Released California Condors officially “come of age” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Greenland Project

Satellite tracking reveals the range of the incredible Gyrfalcon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Harpy Eagles

New facility in Panama provides tropical environment for captive breeding . . . . . . .8


Local people assume protection of natural resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Cape Verde Kite

Capturing one of these rare raptors puts our biologists to the test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Zimbabwe Falconers Club

How a falconers club assists in shaping national conservation strategies . . . . . . . . .13

Notes from the Field

From Peru to Pakistan, our researchers share their triumphs and worries . . . . . . . .15


Our future is in your hands! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23


Up-close encounters with birds of prey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

Lee M. Bass

President, Lee M. Bass,


Robert B. Berry

Trustee, Wolf Creek

Charitable Trust,

Falcon Breeder, and


Harry L. Bettis


P. Dee Boersma,


Professor, University of


Frank M. Bond

Attorney at Law and


Robert S. Comstock

President and CEO,

Robert Comstock


Derek J. Craighead


© 2001 • Edited by Bill Burnham • Design © 2001 by Amy Siedenstrang



Scott A. Crozier

Senior Vice President

and General Counsel


T. Halter


Business Executive/


Patricia A. Disney

Vice Chairman,

Shamrock Holdings,


James H. Enderson,


Professor of Biology

The Colorado College

Caroline A. Forgason



Michael R. Gleason

Investor, Culmen

Group, L.P.

Z. Wayne Griffin, Jr.

Developer, G&N

Management, Inc.

Jacobo Lacs


Businessman and


Patricia B. Manigault

Conservationist and


Velma V. Morrison

President, Harry W.

Morrison Foundation

Ruth O. Mutch


Morlan W. Nelson


Hydrologist, and


Ian Newton,

D.Phil., D.Sc.


Ornithologist (Ret.)

Natural Environment

Research Council

United Kingdom

Thomas T. Nicholson

Rancher and


Lucia L. Severinghaus,


Research Fellow

Institute of Zoology,

Academia Sinica


R. Beauregard Turner

Fish and Wildlife

Manager, Turner


William E. Wade, Jr.

President (Ret.),

Atlantic Richfield


James D. Weaver

Past President, North

American Falconers’


and Raptor Biologist

P.A.B. Widener, Jr.

Rancher and Investor


Nature Makes the Whole World Kin

– Shakespeare

During the week of 11

September 2001 we were

holding our annual planning

meeting. There were staff

members and cooperators from

many countries, cultures, and religions

gathered at the World

Center for Birds of Prey to present

programmatic results from the

past year and to make plans for

what we hope to achieve in the

following five years. The first

news of the terrorist attack came

via the Philippines when the

President of the Philippine Eagle

Foundation called. For the next

two hours we sat and watched in

horror and disbelief as the events

were reported and displayed on a

television in our meeting room.

As we sat there the sadness and

rage were no less or more for

those of us from the United States

than those from Europe, Africa,

Asia, or Latin America. The attack

was not just on and about the

United States, but directed at the

world’s humanity and the very

core of civilization and human


Over the next few days we

received a stream of messages,

some of which are shared here.

Receiving these messages it was

increasingly obvious that

although “we work to conserve

birds of prey in nature,” the effect

is far greater than just on raptors,

or even nature conservation. We

have found a common interest

and bond on which relationships

and understanding are established

and nurtured, helping bridge cultures,

nations, and peoples of the

world. As we learned in uniting

the vast diversity of people and

organizations to restore the

Peregrine Falcon, it is seldom possible

to agree on everything, but if

we can find something in

common on which to agree, many

of the other problems can eventually

be resolved through understanding

and finally trust.

“Allow me to share my outrage at

the cowardly assault on your

country. At the same time, my

family joins me in prayer for the

thousands of lives that have been

lost and affected by these terrorists.

I wish I could be of some

help in any way. Please let me

know.” Philippines

“We are shocked to learn about

the recent tragedy in the US. We

share with you all the grief and

sorrow. We strongly condemn

and resent this act of terrorism.

We take it as crime not against

the American government or

American people, but against

humanity. We wish that we

could have been with you at this

sad and evil event.” Pakistan

“We are deeply shocked with the

terrorism act in the US. We join

all of Malagasy people and

nation to condemn such act. We

hope the US government will


We have found a common interest

… helping bridge cultures, nations,

and peoples of the world.

find quickly those responsible for

this act and punish them severely

to let the liberty, freedom, and

peace settle forever.”


“From me personally and from

my country and the whole of

Europe I send you my deepest

sympathy. I do not know what to

say. We all support you.”


“On rare occasion, even fanatical

raptor conservationists can be

diverted from their cause. This is

one such occasion. No words can

express the level of revulsion that

these unjustifiable acts have generated

around the world. Our

thoughts are with our American

friends and colleagues at this

tragic time. Let us hope that this

despicable attack only serves to

unite every civilized individual of

all nations to eradicate this evil

from our world. This is a shockingly

terrible day in the history of

mankind.” United Kingdom

“I express my deepest condolences

of my heart to all Americans who

have lost their relatives in today’s

terrorist attack. I know there is

little comfort in words, but I do

want to express how deeply we

all feel for you. We are shocked,

horrified, and saddened. God

bless all Americans and us.”


“Please accept my (and all or our

staff’s) sympathies to the attacks

of terrorists!”


“I think all of us in Europe are

deeply shocked and saddened by

the terrible events of yesterday. I

personally feel deeply for all of

you who are friends across the

Atlantic. I grieve for the thousands

so callously slain. It is a

joint tragedy and shame to whole

humankind that soil our planet.”


Aplomado Falcon Recovery:

Dealing with Other Predators

This year our biologists

were able to locate 33

by J. Peter Jenny pairs of Aplomado

Falcons in South Texas, and although

some of these pairs were immature, 22

(66%) attempted to breed. Perhaps

most encouraging was that the number

of young to successfully fledge from

these nests more than tripled from last

year. Only eight young were able to

fledge from nests last year as a result of

predation by raccoons, coyotes, and

Great Horned Owls. This season breeding

pairs successfully fledged at least

29 young.

We experimented with several proactive

management techniques in an

effort to reduce predation from ground

predators at nests. When our biologists

located an active nest they circled it

with a single strand of portable electrical

fence. Next, small sticks were

treated with “Renardine,” which was

developed in Great Britain to protect

ground nesting birds from foxes. A few

of the sticks were placed directly under

the nest, and others were placed in a

30-yard circle around the nest.

Although some losses still occurred, we

found that predation by raccoons and

coyotes at nests receiving these management

techniques was significantly


We are also developing artificial

nesting structures designed to make it

more difficult for predators to gain

access to the falcon’s eggs or their

young. The Great Horned Owl remains

the most difficult predator for us to

manage, and in some areas of south

Texas the species may ultimately limit

the recovery of the Aplomado Falcon.

The interaction of species in nature

is one of the many challenges encountered

in restoration biology. Although

the effects of these interactions are

often extremely frustrating, they are, in

the end, one of the aspects of working

with nature that makes our work so

very interesting.

From top: Adult Aplomado Falcon above


Photo © W.S. Clark

Photo by Amy Nicholas

The interaction

of species in

nature is one

of the many


encountered in



Photo by Brian Mutch

Aplomado Falcon eggs in White-tailed

Hawk nest. Aplomados and other falcons do

not build their own nests, and may use

nests constructed by other birds.

Biologists place electric wire around base of

nest tree.


Major Milestone Achieved for

25 March 2001

Photo by Chris Parish

Adult Condor

soars at the edge

of the Grand


…the object

he was pushing


was large and

smooth and

elliptical and

looked exactly

like – an


For those of us who have worked

with the condors and those of you

by Sophie Osborn who have watched them at the

Vermilion Cliffs and Grand Canyon or read of their

trials and tribulations in The Peregrine Fund’s home

page field notes (www.peregrinefund.org), the

thrilling discovery on 25 March was deeply moving.

It will forever mark an unforgettable milestone in

our efforts to restore the condor.

Sunday, 25 March 2001, started out in the same

way as almost every other day in March, with the

various crew members headed out early to the

release site and the Colorado River corridor to track

and monitor Arizona’s 25 free-flying condors. I

headed out to the river to observe our “trio,” male

Condor 123 and female Condors 119 and 127, and

to monitor a newly released juvenile, Condor 198,

who had left the Vermilion Cliffs a mere six days

after his release (more on him later!). Perched on

the cliff edge, I watched Condor 119 fly over to the

cave the trio had been investigating on and off for

several weeks, and disappear inside at 1020 hours.

Condors 123 and 127 were content to perch on a

nearby ledge. Much to my surprise, an hour and a

quarter later, Condor 198 appeared, flying down a

side canyon and heading straight for the cave and

the lounging adults. After several days perched

alone on cliffs overlooking the town of Marble

Canyon, he had finally found his way to the river

and found some companions!

Dodging the pesky Peregrine Falcon that was

relentlessly pursuing him, Condor 198 landed by

the cave next to Condors 123 and 127. The adults,

however, did not appear to appreciate their space

being invaded by an intruder. Chaos erupted!

Condor 119 emerged from her cave and, surprisingly,

was promptly attacked by her mate, Condor

123, while Condor 127 began attacking Condor

198. The Peregrine wisely retreated! As Condor 119

dropped off the ledge, she turned her attentions to

pursuing Condor 198. Condors 123 and 127

quickly joined in the chase. A few minutes later

Condor 198 circled and landed by the cave and the

three adults settled nearby. Perhaps the adults’

aggression would have abated had Condor 198 not

decided to fly again and land even closer to the cave

entrance. No sooner had he landed than the adults

attacked again. Finally, Condor 123 escorted the

young bird out of the territory.

Upon his return, Condor 123 flew to the cave

and walked part way in. Nine minutes later, he was

in full view in the cave entrance and was pushing

something around with his bill. Such behavior was

not unusual, since these three adults have been

engaging in frequent nest grooming behavior where

they push pebbles and debris around the “nest”

cave and ledge with their bills. But as Condor 123

stepped back, I saw that the object he was pushing

around was large and smooth and elliptical and

looked exactly like—an EGG!! A condor egg!! I

don’t know if I breathed. Time seemed suspended.

Frantically I tried to focus my scope for a closer

look, but it was already zoomed in as far as it would

go! I stared and stared. Could this in fact be the

first condor egg laid in the wild since 1986?!? Or

was it just a large, oval rock? Frantically, I searched

my memory. Had I noticed a smooth white rock in

the cave entrance earlier? Surely, I would have

noted it if I had. I struggled to contain my excitement.

As an emotional person, caught up in my

affection for the condors and the ever-unfolding

drama of the efforts to recover them, I wanted to

jump and shout, to rush off to tell the world what

an amazing thing these incredible birds had done!

But the biologist in me won out. I needed to be

absolutely 100% sure of what I was seeing. I could

not afford to be wrong about this. Motionless, I

continued staring through the scope. Calmly, I

described what I was seeing in my field notes. For

almost an hour I stared at the beautifully smooth


California Condor Restoration

object, pausing only to call Chris

Parish, our project manager, on

the cell phone to let him know

that I might be looking at a

condor egg!

While I watched, Condor 119

left the area and Condor 123 went

into the cave for several minutes,

then perched by the entrance. At

1236 hours, Condor 127 walked

up to the cave entrance and

stopped by the possible egg.

Reaching down, she placed her bill

inside its hollowed-out back end.

Then I knew. I was elated ... and,

for a brief moment, crushed. It was

indeed an egg! No rock could be

so smooth, elliptical, white, eggshell

thin, and hollow to boot!

But it was broken. Still, none of us

had realistically expected the birds

to successfully hatch an egg this

year. Condors do not usually

manage to hatch an egg on their

first attempt. Typically, the egg gets

broken or is infertile. The fact that

this egg was broken in no way

diminishes the fact that these birds

who had been released as two-year

olds in 1997 and faced extraordinary

odds over the ensuing years,

including almost being killed by

lead poisoning in the summer of

2000, had found themselves a nest

cave and laid their first egg!!! I

felt overwhelmed by the enormity

of the moment. Although dozens

of people had contributed infinitely

more to the release effort

than I had, I happened to be the

lucky person in the right spot at

the right time to see the first egg

laid by free-flying condors in 15

years! It gave me a surge of hope

that despite the infinite obstacles

these magnificent birds face, they

will succeed.

Photo by Chris Parish


Female Gyrfalcon at her

eyrie after being tracked

by The Peregrine Fund

for nearly a year. Note


transmitter antenna

extending from her



Tracking Provides

Valuable Information

Photo by Alberto Palleroni


with satellite


Photo by Alberto Palleroni

Gyrfalcons are the largest of all

species of falcons. They breed

by Kurt K. Burnham in the arctic regions of the

world, feeding on ptarmigan and many other kinds

of birds as well as Arctic Hare and small mammals.

Their prey varies from location to location, and

even time of year, as they take advantage of changes

in abundance and seasonal availability. Plumage

also varies, but not seasonally, as they molt only

once annually. Gyrfalcons nesting in the northern

arctic frequently have light-colored plumage and

some are near white, while those in the more southern

arctic are mostly gray in color. Their plumage

color may offer them an advantage when hunting

prey as more snow and ice occur in the northern

arctic than in the southern.

To breed and survive in the severe arctic conditions,

Gyrfalcons have special adaptations beyond

plumage color. Their legs are covered with feathers

and they have very dense plumage with thick down,

all to hold in body heat. During long arctic storms

they may have to go for days without feeding, and

conservation of energy is important. In the early

spring, and particularly during incubation, temperatures

may be well below zero Fahrenheit.


Four nearly fledged

young produced by

tracked Gyrfalcon.

Photo by Alberto Palleroni


one of the many

challenges of

studying the


Gyrfalcons have held great fascination for some

biologists and for centuries have been highly

regarded by falconers; however, very little is actually

known about them in parts of their range, and in

particular in Greenland. We are trying to answer

many questions about this species in Greenland,

including their seasonal movements. Using transmitters

monitored by satellite (PTTs) is providing

detailed information.

On 13 October 2000, we placed a PTT on a

female Gyrfalcon at a fall trapping station near the

Arctic Circle on the west coast of Greenland. The

data gained from this transmitter allowed us to track

her for the entire winter and into the following

spring and summer. After we attached the PTT to

her, she proceeded about 480 miles (800 km) down

the west coast of Greenland and spent the winter

months in southern Greenland. In mid-March she

began to migrate back up the west coast and settled

into an area northwest of Kangerlussuaq, most likely

her breeding territory. In June, using the best locations

we had received from her PTT, we were able to

find her, and shortly afterwards her nest. Her nest

contained four 30+ day old young and was tucked

into a cliff above a high mountain lake surrounded

by snowcapped peaks. The valley contained willowchoked

gullies, excellent ptarmigan habitat that

was most likely one of the reasons she chose to

breed at this location. After several attempts at capturing

her we finally were successful and replaced

her current PTT with a new unit that will last until

the summer of 2002.

With the information gained from this Gyrfalcon

and additional falcons carrying satellite-monitored

transmitters, we are gaining important new information

for the conservation of Gyrfalcons. This

research will continue for several more years with

between 15 and 25 Gyrfalcons being tracked annually.

To obtain more information on our work in

Greenland and Gyrfalcons, please visit our home

page at www.peregrinefund.org.

Photo by Bill Burnham

Her nest

contained four

30+ day old

young and was

tucked into a

cliff above a

high mountain

lake surrounded

by snowcapped



Harpy Eagle.

Photo by Alberto Palleroni

Harpy Eagles Arrive at Neotropical

Raptor Center, Panama

There are now five pairs of Harpy

Eagles at the Neotropical Raptor

Center, located a short distance

from Panama City within the former

U. S. Fort Clayton, renamed the City of

Knowledge. This new entity was created

by an Act of the Panamanian

Congress to establish a center of excellence

for intellectual, business, and

environmental activities in Panama.

Fundo Peregrino—Panama (The

Peregrine Fund—Panama) has offices,

staff housing, and the Neotropical

Raptor Center there. We were one of

the first organizations to become a resident.

With the completion of six large

steel and chain-link breeding chambers,

Harpy Eagles from the World

Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho were

moved to the Neotropical Raptor

Center in October 2001. Each chamber

was constructed within the forest and

visually separated from other chambers

and any human activity, creating as

natural an environment as possible for

captive breeding. Although Harpy

Eagles were successfully bred and many


young raised at our World Center’s

Gerald D. and Kathryn Swim Herrick

Tropical Raptor Building in Idaho, we

could not achieve the desired rate of

reproduction nor plumage and condition

of the eagles. It was simply impossible

for us to duplicate a tropical environment

indoors for such large eagles.

Our Panamanian cooperators were

excited by the arrival of the eagles. Of

special interest was the repatriation of

Ancon, a male Harpy Eagle formally

loaned to The Peregrine Fund in 1991

by Panama. Ancon hatched in the

wilds of Panama in 1985 and was illegally

captured. He was rescued by a

premier Panamanian environmental

organization, “ANCON,” thus his

name. With that organization’s assistance

the eagle was transferred to The

Peregrine Fund. Soon after his arrival

at the World Center for Birds of Prey

he was paired with a young female and

over the years they produced eight

young Harpy Eagles, including three

previously returned and released in


International Conference

on Neotropical Raptors

and Harpy Eagle


The Peregrine Fund

Fondo Peregrino – Panama

Panama City, Panama

24 - 27 October 2002

The Peregrine Fund and Fondo

Peregrino – Panama invite you

to join scientists, conservationists,

resource managers, falconers,

representatives of zoos, government

and non-governmental organizations,

and other persons and institutions

with an interest in research

and/or conservation of birds of

prey in Latin America and the

Caribbean to participate in a meeting

to share knowledge, interests,

and concerns and help develop a

network of practitioners in the fields

of raptor conservation, research,

captive-breeding, and falconry.

For further information, contact:

Neotropical Raptor Conference

The Peregrine Fund

5668 West Flying Hawk Lane

Boise, Idaho 83709

United States of America

Tel: 208-362-3717

Fax: 208-362-2376

E-mail: tpf@peregrinefund.org

Details and registration forms are

also available on The Peregrine

Fund’s web site at:



Natural Resource Management

Transferred to Local Population

Madagascar is

the fourth

by Russell Thorstrom largest island

in the world and is inhabited by some

of the most unusual and unique plants

and animals in the world. The are 24

species of birds of prey in Madagascar

of which 14 occur only on the island.

Due to its uniqueness, number of

endemic animals and plants, and loss

of primary vegetation, Madagascar has

become one of the primary hotspots in

the world for conservation. The

Peregrine Fund’s interest

in Madagascar began Madagascar

many years ago with Fish Eagle.

research and conservation

of the critically

endangered endemic

Madagascar Fish Eagle

and Madagascar Serpent-

Eagle. In Madagascar,

both wetlands and

forested habitat continue

to be lost at an

alarming rate and conservation

remains critical.

Wetlands are extremely threatened

due to the dependency of the Malagasy

people on them for cultivating rice,

their staple food.

We began research work on the

endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle in

the wetlands of central western

Madagascar in 1991. Our work has

been focused at Lakes Soamalipo,

Befotaka, and Ankerika on what we

estimate to be 10% of the entire breeding

fish eagle population. These three

lakes also support an abundant fisheries

resource. In the early 1990s there

was an increasing number of seasonal

migrant fishermen coming to these

lakes to catch fish to sell. This increased

pressure conflicted with the needs of

the local people and their laws, and

eventually reduced fish stocks.

In 1993, we proposed the idea of a

community-based conservation project

to protect the wetlands and natural

resources shared by the local people

and fish eagles. By 1996, the government

of Madagascar created and

encouraged empowerment of local

communities to control and manage

their natural resources (Law Project

No. 17/96). We then began working

with the local people around the three

lakes to help achieve local control. In

1997, with our support and aid, the

people around Lakes Soamalipo and

Befotaka formed a chartered association

for managing

their resources of the

lakes and surrounding

forest. Two years later

the people on Lake

Ankerika did likewise.

The Peregrine Fund

was challenged with

convincing the local

people of the need to

group together, how to

improve their existing

traditional laws and

sanctions, the importance

of managing their resources sustainably,

and thinking in terms of their

future. We have been helping these two

associations to reach their objective of

controlling their natural resources.

Finally, in 2000 these associations

requested the transfer of the resource

management from the government of

Madagascar to them. After five long

years it became a reality on 29

September 2001.

For the next three years, during a

probationary period, the local organizations

will be required to demonstrate

adequate care and management practices

over their resources. Upon the

completion of the probationary period,

the review process will be extended by

the government of Madagascar to every

10 years. The Peregrine Fund will continue

to be a resource for the sake of

the eagles.

Photo by Russell Thorstrom

Photo by Russell Thorstrom





from a


tree and

fish from

the wetlands.

Presentation ceremony transfers natural

resource management to local people.

Photo by Lily-Arison Rene de Roland


Cape Verde Kites




Cape Verde

Kites are

known to

survive only

in these

islands off

the coast of





by Rick Watson

Endangered species conservation

always presents challenges.

Some are easier to

deal with than others; some are predictable

bureaucratic challenges that just take time

and endless patience; others are of “cuttingedge

science” in nature; and yet others relate

to unexpected behavior of the animals themselves.

The Cape Verde Kite project has had

its fair share of all these!

Scientifically, the Cape Verde Kite presents

an interesting dilemma to conservation

biologists. It was only recently proposed as a

distinct species, Milvus fasciicauda, despite

the fact that its nearest relative, the

European Red Kite, Milvus milvus, was found

over 1,800 miles (3,000 km) away. Of this

substantial distance, at least 400 miles

(645 km) is over the Atlantic Ocean.

The Cape Verde Kite is geographically

isolated from its nearest relatives, but

since when, and how they got there, we

do not know. Like other island species

(e.g., Darwin’s finches in the

Galapagos) once isolated, these kites

probably followed their own evolutionary

path as the species adapted to local

conditions. New information collected

in the mid-1990s on the behavior and

morphology of the Cape Verde Kite is

consistent with this theory. This new

evidence, combined with conservation

biologists’ revised understanding of what defines a

“species” for the purpose of conservation (based on

acceptance of populations with a different evolutionary

history being the basic currency for conservation),

we now recognize the Cape Verde Kite as

unique and different from its European relative, and

worthy of conservation in its own right. The tragedy

of this new understanding is that many species may

have already gone extinct because they were not previously

recognized as worthy of the time, effort, and

substantial cost of conservation. This may have been

the fate of the Cape Verde Kite, except The Peregrine

Fund went to work “just in time”—we hope!

When we began this project over a year ago, there

was a possibility the species may have become extinct

One call produced

the hint of a kite,

so Sabine spent

her last dollars on

a flight to the

island of Boavista.

European Red

Kite, closest

relative of the

Cape Verde


in the previous few months. Only two

widely separated individuals had been seen

in the species “stronghold” in 1999 on the

island of Santa Antão, and two were

reported from neighboring São Vicente island in

2000. In October 2000 we recruited Sabine Hille, a

German biologist studying kestrels on the Cape Verde

islands and then finishing her PhD at the Konrad-

Lorenz Institute in Vienna, to mount a search for the

Cape Verde Kite to establish whether or not the

species survived. If found, we proposed to capture the

last remaining birds for captive breeding. This, we

felt, was another Mauritius Kestrel, a species so decimated

by human activities that only captive breeding

could save it from extinction. In captivity, the chances

of the adult birds surviving are much higher than in

the wild. We can control and optimize their diet for

breeding and we can manage the breeding to increase

Photo by Sabine Hille



the number of eggs laid and hatched, increasing survivorship

of nestlings. Put together, this kind of

intensive hands-on management can greatly improve

the chances of species survival when only a few individuals


Sabine immediately went to work organizing a

team of volunteers to help her scale the rugged

mountains of Santa Antão and São Vicente islands

in search of kites. The Cape Verde islands are literally

“desert islands,” not the Robinson Crusoe-like

(or “Cast Away-like”!) “deserted islands” rich in

tropical vegetation. They are volcanic, dry islands

that rise from the sea to over 3,000 feet (900 m) to

where scarce moisture allows vegetation to hold on

to a precarious life, or they surface to only a few

hundred feet where only drought-hardy plants

manage to dot the barren landscape.

Survey work began in May this year and by late

June the team of 10 sadly concluded the Cape Verde

Kite was now extinct. There were none to be found

in its “last stronghold” on Santa Antão or neighboring

São Vicente Islands. Five days before her scheduled

departure, Sabine called around to friends and

biologists working on other islands “just in case”

someone had seen something like a kite on another

island where they had not been recorded in

decades. One call produced the hint of a kite, so

Sabine spent her last dollars on a flight to the island

of Boavista. Two days later I received an excited

phone call, “They’re here! Four kites, Cape Verde

Kites,” yelled Sabine’s elated voice over a crackling

phone line from a mid-Atlantic desert island. Her

last few days were spent in intensive study of the

birds’ hunting behavior, daily routine, and habitat

preferences. Armed with this information she

returned to Austria to plan for the capture and

translocation of the birds, while her local friends

began “training” the birds to come to a predictable

food station.

A month later, our field team flew in to Cape

Verde, arriving in Sal Island’s international airport in

the early morning hours. Sabine was joined by longtime

friend of The Peregrine Fund Jim Willmarth and

our Project Manager from Kenya, Simon Thomsett,

both experts in the capture and translocation of birds

of prey. But that is a story I will let Jim tell.

Kite Capture Depends

on Patience, Timing,

and Technology

by Jim Willmarth

After meeting Sabine Hille, I was shepherded

through customs and experienced the unusually

complicated process of flying from one

island to another in Cape Verde. Sabine speaks Crioulo, a mixture

of Portuguese and various West African languages, as well as

the official language of Portuguese. She has worked in Cape

Verde for years so everywhere we went we were greeted by smiling

acquaintances. Arriving in Boavista Island after a night of

limited sleep on the airport floor at Sal Island, we hitched a ride

and stowed our gear with friends. We then

went directly to the site where Sabine’s friends

I had the


feeling they

were waiting

for us.

had been leaving food for the kites every five

days. To my amazement, as soon as we turned

off the cobblestone main road onto the dirt

track leading to the feeding spot, there they

were. All four kites were sitting together on the

phone lines about 100 yards from us. I had the

uncanny feeling they were waiting for us.

As soon as we left food at the feeding site

and backed off a few hundred yards, the kites

flew in to inspect the food from a cautious distance.

Ravens came first and began to take a

few morsels and immediately the kites all came, chased them off,

and began to carry off small bits of food.

As the days passed it became clear that these four kites had

two ravens that they were associated with on a daily basis. If the

ravens did not go to a source of food first, the kites would not

approach it. Often we watched as the kites found a new meal

and waited for the ravens to come and do a security check. If the

ravens found the offered meal suspicious, they would jump up

and down and cry loudly, making such a fuss that the kites

would fly off.

About this time we caught up with Simon Thomsett, the third

member of our party. We knew Simon was on his way but we

were not sure of the exact day or time of his arrival. We had all

been communicating by e-mail but as Simon explained to us, he

lives miles outside of Nairobi, Kenya, at a place with no phone

or electricity. For him to get a message involved the reception of

the e-mail in Nairobi that was copied onto a floppy disc and

(continued on page 12)



Kite Capture (continued from page 11)

“placed in the end of a cleft stick and

given to a runner who proceeded on

foot to Simon’s house in the traditional

manner of local mail delivery.”

Simon then put the floppy in his

portable computer to read the message.

He said this whole procedure

“took a bit of the convenience out of

e-mail communication” for him!

Drawing on Simon’s experience of

capturing Black Kites in Africa, we

decided to make a blind so we could

be closer to the birds when we caught

them and to aid our observations. At

mid-day when the birds went off to

soar they were often gone for hours.

One day, when I thought the kites

were out for the afternoon, I took a

small shovel and started to make a

place where we could hide. I scraped a

shallow depression in the ground and

started to pile some large rocks around

the perimeter. I noticed the shadow of

a bird move by me. Looking up, I saw

two of the kites only about 40 yards

above. They were watching with great

interest. I walked away feeling foolish.

That evening all four of the kites came

and perched near the aborted hiding

place. The ravens came, and upon

seeing the depression and out of place

rocks, they jumped up and down and

cursed the place so loudly that the

kites flew away without even inspecting

the nearby food we had left for


We discussed what we had learned

so far and between us tried to come up

with a solution for catching these

birds. If we could get them all at once

to feed within a few feet of each other,

we would have a chance of capturing

them all with a bow net. A bow net is

a circular net with a ridged frame that

can be placed flat on the ground and

pulled over whatever is within its

perimeter. We soon found we could get

the kites to feed together, but only

once every four or five days.

We set up the bow net and tested it

several times in a place hidden from

the kites’ usual haunts. Each time it

took almost four hours to set up so

that is was hidden from the critical

eyes of the ravens by carefully sprinkling

it with a fine layer of sand. Once

satisfied that the trap worked perfectly,

we set it up one final time, and even

brushed our tracks from the sand as

we retreated 300 yards to our observation

spot. It was days later before the

Cape Verde Kite habitat

on Boavista Island.

ravens, and then the kites, found the

bait. The ravens came in first. They

walked around and around the carcass,

calling softly to each other. After about

10 minutes they moved in very close

and began tentatively pecking at it.

Finally, they started to eat. Our careful

preparations had succeeded in deceiving

even the smart ravens!

Then the kites arrived, all at once.

They sat about 50 yards away and

watched suspiciously. Then they began

to walk in, slowly at first, stopping and

going, waiting for the ones behind to

catch up. As they got closer, they

seemed more excited; their pace quickened

until they began to run, stopping

only for a second or two in their rush.

Finally, one ran straight in with wings

slightly spread in a threatening posture.

Reluctantly, the ravens flew off a

short distance. Now, suddenly, all the

kites were on the carcass. They looked

around and began to feed.

After weeks of patient learning

through observation and trial and

error, we had all four kites together

and within the perimeter of our trap.

Success seemed to be at hand! We

looked at each other with wide eyes.

Anticipating the sprint to the net to

retrieve the captured kites, we grabbed

the transmitter that triggers the trap

and pushed the release lever.

Nothing happened. We passed the

transmitter from hand to hand, pushing

more and more vigorously on the

lever. A good number of technical

expressions were uttered in several different

languages. But it did not help.

Simon even crept in closer to the trap

to see if perhaps reducing the distance

to the receiver on the trap would help.

But to no avail.

Later, as we inspected the failed

trap, we realized that over the days of

patient waiting, sand had gradually

trickled into the trap’s mechanism and

packed tightly around the bow so that

it was effectively jammed tight in the

ground. We tried a variety of solutions,

but with very limited materials available

to work with, none were reliable

Photo by Jim Willmarth

enough to work consistently. We

tried other methods like various

noose traps and others, but by now

the kites had a new and abundant

source of food—locusts that grew

larger by the day. They were maturing

at about five to six inches in

length and had started to breed,

which made them very easy prey.

The kites would

catch them two

at a time by

I noticed the

shadow of a bird

move by me.

Looking up, I

saw two of the

kites only about

40 yards above.

simply sailing

over the acacia

trees and plucking

them off the

top branches

like ripe fruit

until they were

full. The kites

lost interest in

other food completely


stopped coming

to our suspicious


We have

hopes of returning

with traps

built specifically

for the difficult conditions on the

islands. The locusts should be gone

by then and the birds should be

more interested in the food we

offer them.

Cape Verde is a very unique

country culturally, geographically,

and biologically. I feel honored to

have taken away this small experience

of it. The kites are not the only

endangered endemic on this special

group of islands, but I try not to

think of that. It is worrisome

enough when I think of the four

birds on Boavista Island preening in

the morning sun, soaring over their

high rocky ridge, inspecting every

new thing they come across with

curiosity, completely unaware of

how small their tribe has become. I

worry about them and hope that we

will meet again.

Raptor Conservation and Research in Zimbabwe


Lead the Way

The stimulating part of

heading up the

by Ron Hartley Zimbabwe Falconers

Club (ZFC) is the variety of work

required. With some 66 species of

diurnal raptors and 12 of owls, it is

vital that we prioritize our efforts.

There is just one full-time professional

ornithologist in the country, Peter

Mundy, who represents the

Department of National Parks and

Wild Life Management. Fortunately he

has always been forward looking and

part of his responsibilities has been to

facilitate the conservation policies of

non-governmental organizations like

the ZFC. Having worked closely

together for nearly 20 years, we have

structured a policy which focuses on

the biology of the birds, their conservation

needs, and developing public

awareness through a two-pronged educational

program. This policy is also

formally recognized by way of the government

policy toward falconry. Peter

Mundy looks to me and the ZFC program

for key input on the national

strategy for raptor biology and conservation.

Our approach has been supported

and refined by our association

with The Peregrine Fund, which goes

back even further to the late 1970s.

Getting the right people involved is

always the key to a successful operation.

Falconers are hands-on operators

and they are passionate about their

sport and the raptors and prey that

they use. Our program is based on this

passion. Falconers are encouraged to

make use of the wild resource. In

return they are expected to contribute

to the research program by sharing

information on the raptors they

Young Teita

Falcons at

the eyrie.

encounter. Many contribute as volunteers

to the research program and they

include doctors, veterinary surgeons,

farmers, hunters, businessmen, and

tradesmen. Access to such a wide range

of skills has proved most helpful in the

program. My job is to help design and

direct the projects, and to encourage

participation from the volunteers. I

also lead several of the key projects

and get involved in all of the fieldwork

and much of the writing up.

Operating from an idyllic base in

the bushveld at Falcon College in rural

Matabeleland, I have also run the high

school’s falconry club and natural history

unit for nearly 20 years. Students

range from 14 to 18 years of age, and

several graduates now form an important

part of the national research program.

The college is surrounded by an

extensive area of wild lands, including

the eastern edge of the famed Matobo

Photo by Ron Hartley

(continued on page 14)


Zimbabwe Falconers (continued from page 13)

Photo by Ron Hartley

…students learn

first-hand the habits

of breeding birds,

sometimes climbing

to nests, banding

chicks, and collecting

prey remains.

Hills which hosts one of the richest

arrays of birds of prey in Africa. Species

studied in detail include Crowned,

Martial, African Hawk, Tawny, and

Wahlberg’s Eagles, Black, Ovambo, and

Little Sparrowhawks, and Gabar

Goshawk. Students have been involved

in long-term studies of raptor communities

in this area. Some students also

accompany me on expeditions into

study areas at Batoka Gorge, Chizarira,

Chirisa, Siabuwa, Save Valley, and

David Maritz, a former student at Falcon

College, searches for raptors at Batoka


Bubiana Conservancies, and

Malilangwe. These are all wonderful

wilderness areas with abundant

wildlife, including big game such as

elephants. In the field the students

learn first-hand the habits of breeding

birds, sometimes climbing to nests,

banding chicks, and collecting prey

remains. Some students have done

research projects, which I have helped

stimulate, plan, and supervise. These

projects are also published and the

unit has an enviable publication


As one of our unique attributes is

the hands-on approach, an important

focus has been on the biology of littleknown

species such as Teita Falcons

and African Peregrine Falcons, Ayres’

Eagle, and Bat Hawk. We have produced

some useful new information

on all of these species. I have been fortunate

to handle all of these species

and study them also in the wild.

Watching a pair of Teita Falcons tending

young at the nest is most exciting,

not the least because nests are invariably

located in pristine wilderness

areas. Feeling the tree shake as an adult

Martial Eagle alights near the hide and

then drops onto the nest, its baleful

yellow eyes gazing suspiciously, while I

hardly breathe as I will it to settle is

another golden moment. Spotting a

dark nondescript raptor wrench off a

stick and then follow the raptor to find

that it is the elusive and enigmatic Bat

Hawk busy building its nest is equally

captivating. Being able to share such

experiences with like-minded colleagues

is both fun and inspirational.

Not all of our activities involve

such appealing and ground-breaking

biological work. Human impacts are a

constant factor, requiring basic and

sometimes innovative approaches. The

growing environmental catastrophe

from the widespread and chaotic land

invasions in Zimbabwe, with attendant

deforestation and poaching, threaten

one of the country’s most valuable

assets—its wild land. When Peter

Mundy, Warren Goodwin, and I spent

a weekend at Wabai Hill on Debshan

Ranch early this year we observed over

50 newly built huts below the feature,

an important bird area. Wabai Hill

hosts the northern-most colony of the

Cape Vulture in an area with a rich

variety of other raptors and wildlife. It

was an appropriate venue for our

meeting to contribute to a new threatened

and endangered species list for

Zimbabwe, as our deliberations were

made right on the hard edge of human

pressure. As we cooked dinner in the

bush, we heard a dozen rifle shots in

this erstwhile pristine and protected

area. The following day some of the

invaders boasted how they had shot

(illegally) some antelope on the open

plains. We have some daunting challenges

and times ahead.



theField Field


Isidor’s Eagle.

Isidor’s Eagles:

Owners of the

Cloud Forest

© Heinz Plenge

It was about 11 years ago when I

saw an Isidor’s Eagle for the first

by Ursula Valdez time. I was crossing the cloud forest

on my way to Amazonian lowlands in Peru. From

a comfortable tourist truck that was giving me a

ride, I could see a fantastic scene. A few meters

from the road there was a mossy tree emerging

from the steep slope and on the top of it there

was a nest with an Isidor’s Eagle and a nestling. I

remember jumping from the truck and staying

while the tourists were heading to a lodge not far

down the road. I stayed there for three hours just

watching the eagles, and I was fascinated with the

(continued on page 16)


...we went through a mysterious

A treacherous one-lane mountain

road provides access to the study

area on alternating days.


The author

builds a


Photo by Ursula Valdez

Photo by Ursula Valdez

Isidor’s Eagle (continued from page 15)

experience. By that time I was a newly graduated

biologist looking for a direction for my career and

my interest in birds, and especially raptors, was

starting to grow. Sadly, years later I found out that

the eagles were not nesting there anymore. A man

had cut down the tree and since then there was not

evidence of any nesting activity around. During the

next years, however, I had the chance to pass by that

road several times and some of those I still was

lucky to see an Isidor’s Eagle flying along or across

the valley.

By July of 2000, I was hired by The Peregrine

Fund as a research biologist and I was assigned to

find breeding pairs of Isidor’s Eagles in South

America. After a talk with Rick Watson where I told

him about my sightings in Peru, we decided to

search for the eagles on the cloud forest of the

Cosñipata Valley. As a Peruvian biologist I considered

this a great opportunity to conduct research in

my own country and with raptors that have became

my passion. But I was also excited about going in

search of those enigmatic eagles that years ago fascinated

me and that inhabit the pristine cloud forest

of the southeastern Andean slopes of Peru.

After some paperwork and lots of bureaucracy in

Lima (capital of Peru), I departed to Cuzco, a small

city high in the Andes, which became our contact

with civilization and source of supplies. In mid-July,

after getting food supplies and all we might need

for the following weeks, my assistant, Cynthia King,

and I left Cuzco towards our field site. A dirt road

that joins Cuzco and the Pilcopata Valley took us to

the cloud forest inside of Manu Biosphere Reserve,

the largest and most famous protected area in Peru.

Since the very first field trip, each journey has

been an adventure—breakdowns, flat tires, landslides

and waiting, sometimes days, for huge earthmovers

to clear them, a truck jammed against a cliff

after a misjudged corner, gruesome accidents at the

bottom of the precipice, and more. The mountain

road itself shows one of the most peculiar (and

scary) transit systems. The road is so narrow and

and magic cloud forest...

with deep precipices that traffic going down to the

lowlands is allowed only three days a week

(Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), while traffic

going up goes on the rest of the days. On Sundays

when there is not much traffic, vehicles are allowed

to go in both directions—at one’s own risk. Of

course, more than once we found a truck coming in

our opposite direction. I swear, every time we had

checked carefully which day to depart.

In many places along the road we saw crosses

with flowers and some inscriptions marking the

location of accidents and deaths, as a reminder of

how careful you need to be when driving this road.

However, every trip was a fantastic journey going

across the high Andes, contemplating the high and

vast mountains and going through passes to the eastern

slopes that go down to the Amazonian rainforest.

On the highest location of the road

we stopped the vehicle to look at the

fantastic scenery. A green carpet-like

vegetation covered the slopes below

and then far in the horizon we could

see the Amazonian plain.

When we arrived in our study area,

Cynthia and I explored for several

days, walking up and down many

hours along the road. We camped in

wet forests where mornings and nights

were in fact wet and cold. Then we

went through a mysterious and magic

cloud forest, in which we walked

under the rain or through dense fog.

But we did not complain. We also had

magnificent sunny and blue-sky days.

During the walks, I stopped every birdwatcher

we found along the road (not many) and

asked if they had seen the eagle. Several times I just

had a sympathetic smile for an answer as most of

them consider the Isidor’s Eagle one of the hardest

species to see. But finally, by mid-August our efforts

were rewarded with the sighting of our first Isidor`s

Eagle high in the sky. Despite our exhaustion we

jumped and celebrated with hugs and dances. For a

couple of days we were able to see the eagle around

...we saw the adult pair

displaying to each other,

grappling talons in midair

and cartwheeling

from the sky toward the

forest canopy

the same area. On the same field trip, we found

another Isidor’s Eagle flying in a higher elevation

locality. We were so excited. Our first goal was

achieved: we confirmed that Isidor’s eagles were

living in our study area. The next step was to find

more individuals and nesting sites.

For the next three months my colleague, Sophie

Osborn, gathered information on more individuals

of Isidor’s Eagle and their behavior, and the areas

they frequently visited. In January 2001, during the

visit of Rick Watson to our study area, we decided to

put all of our efforts into finding a nest of Isidor’s

Eagles and in trapping an individual so we could

radio track it. More challenges, but we took them

again with my new and determined crew (Bryan

Evans, Jose Campoy, and Daniel Huáman as my

field assistants).

During the next five months we

had one of the most fascinating experiences

watching these eagles and

observing their behavior. We will

hardly forget the day we witnessed,

not far from us, a young individual

flying with its parents. Or when we

saw the adult pair displaying to each

other, grappling talons in mid-air and

cartwheeling from the sky toward the

forest canopy, and minutes later,

mating. I observed in awe as an adult

Isidor’s Eagle captured a woolly

monkey. Unfortunately, we haven’t

found a nest yet, but we found certain

evidences of nesting activity. Our trapping

attempts were unsuccessful as

well. However, so far we have gathered

information on the behavior and important

aspects of the biology of the Isidor’s Eagle.

No matter how much longer we want to keep

searching for eagles’ nests or how many more long

days we want to walk, we want to know more about

Isidor’s Eagles. We know, though, that Isidor’s Eagles

are the lords in the cloud forest and we hope they

remain like that for a long time.


Experiences of an Aplomado Falcon

Hack Site Attendant

Aplomado Falcon

hack site.

It is a struggle for me to

awake at 5:30 a.m. The

by Swathi Sridharan 20-minute drive to

work is different every morning,

enthralling in the way of slowly

revealed secrets: deer, vultures swooping

on road kill, snakes, and an eastern

sky that shines gently some mornings

and burns fiercely on others.

At around 8:00 am the first of the

Aplomado Falcons makes its way to the

tower, its black and gold form outlined

clearly in my scope. Beautiful in their

vivid colors and playful soaring flights,

these birds have the ability to look like

a fat pigeon one minute and like royalty

the next. For the brief time that

they are present, the tower is alive. The

falcons eat the quail with small, rapid

bites, often ripping feathers to get to

the unexposed flesh.

The tower becomes still again after

the birds have fed and they huddle

together on the far side in the shade.

They scatter, screaming abuses when I

approach at 11:30 to remove the bones,

feathers, and any other remnants of

their breakfast.

Besides feeding and identifying the

birds, my job also includes scaring off

any approaching vultures that are interested

in the quail on the tower. To do

this I run out of the blind and wave my

arms in silent protest until the vulture,

feigning indifference, shifts direction

with a lazy beat of its wings.

At about one month of age, the falcons

are flown in from The Peregrine

Fund’s headquarters, the World Center

for Birds of Prey, in Boise, Idaho, and

are delivered to us in specially

designed carriers by one of the four

supervisors stationed in Texas. Each

release site usually receives two sets of

birds, sometimes even three. The

young birds scream, bite, and scratch

vehemently in protest at being moved


into the large wooden box on top of

the tower where they will stay for

about a week. This is one of the few

times that the Aplomados are handled.

I have transferred two females, Blue P8

and Orange KD, into their new home.

Their beaks stretch wide as they

scream, revealing little pink tongues. If

held long enough they become quiet

and stare right at you, their midnight

black eyes lined with eyelashes and

protected by eyelids that close from the

bottom up.

While the falcons are in the box they

are fed once a day by dropping halves

of quail through a chute in the top of

the box. Three sides of the box are

made of wood with peepholes drilled in

various positions, while the fourth side

of the box is made out of metal netting

to provide the birds with a view of the

surrounding landscape and other birds.

I spent an hour creeping around on the

tower on all fours peering into the

peepholes to determine whether each

bird had eaten and noting any differences

in plumage and personality. Once

they have been released anything that

will identify each bird helps, since more

often than not, the color bands around

their legs are obscured by an inconsiderate

branch or leaf.

By the third or fourth day in the

box, the birds start to get restless. As

the wind picks up in the evenings, they

stare out toward the lake behind our

tower. They experimentally stretch out

their wings and give a halfhearted flap

before settling down. Red NX, one of

the females from our first set of birds,

was always determined, if not always

successful. She was forever the first to

respond to an all-consuming urge to fly

and was usually still going strong when

we left. She would walk around the

box, her steps getting faster until she

was almost running. Then Red NX

would pause, bob her head as she concentrated,

and focus her eyes on a far

corner of the box. She would make a

prodigious leap, wings flapping hard as

she propelled herself straight into the

side of the box where she would drop

down with a loud thud that never

seemed to bother her, but made me

cringe. The others, emboldened by her

success, would start making leaps of

their own. It was a funny sight to see

seven birds hopping determinedly from

one side to the next, often bumping

into each other or the box. As I

climbed down the ladder, I could still

hear their feet scrabbling across the

gravel in excitement.

Release day is a birthday of sorts—

the day the birds make their first flight,

the day we can no longer control where

they go. The goal of release day is to

open the door to the box and allow the

birds to come out at their own pace.

Motivated by curiosity and hunger

instead of fear, they eat the quail conveniently

placed in plain view and learn

that the tower is a safe place to return.

They remain there until the sun begins

to set and they make their first shaky

flights to the nearby trees to roost for

the night.

Photo by Amy Nicholas

Young Aplomado Falcon.

Photo © Robert Rattner

...they become

quiet and stare

right at you...

While this first flight suggests freedom

and autonomy, as Angel, our field

supervisor, puts it, “Life just got very

difficult all of a sudden.” The birds are

now susceptible to all of nature’s

threats and while I stood there, exulting

in their achievements, I could not

help but be aware of the forces acting

against them. As I write this article only

three out of our original seven are alive.

One flew far without stopping on

release day and disappeared, two more

were eaten by Great Horned Owls. Red

NX, who in her impatience to fly was

the first one off the tower, was never

seen again.

Their frailty was brought home by

their clumsy landings and shaky sense

of direction, for often the wind was

stronger than their wings, and they

would end up in a nearby tree looking

faintly baffled. But their strength was

made evident as well, for within a few

days their flights were graceful, their

landings superb. It is a pleasure to

watch them playfully chase each other,

diving and swooping in a relentless

game of catch where no one is “it.”

My daily routine ends with another

four-hour shift at the blind in the

evenings and I watch the birds eat and

play around the tower until they head

back to the lake for the night. I do not

want to convey an idyllic picture of

endless excitement and wonder. The

Texas heat can be harsh, the ranch

abounding with snakes and gruesome

insects. And it is tough when some

birds disappear, leaving only a handful

of feathers as a testimony to a late night

violent struggle.

I think that we are all collectors of

one sort or another. I collect brief

moments when I am in awe of the

beauty that surrounds me. And there is

of course, one moment that I will

replay in my mind’s eye forever. I woke

up a little later than usual one morning

and the falcons were already at the

tower, waiting for their breakfast.

Instead of scattering as they normally

do at my approach, they let me get

closer than I ever had or have been

since. I was a little shaken and was

debating how to get them off the tower

when the first one took off in a small

tight circle around me. Five other falcons

flew after the first until I was completely

encircled by gold and black

wings beating against the still morning.

I was honored to be surrounded by

their fragile, tenacious beauty.

Photo © W.S. Clark




Five other falcons

flew after the first

until I was completely

encircled by gold and

black wings beating

against the still


For more information on how to become a hack site attendant at The Peregrine Fund, contact Bill

Heinrich at (208) 362-3716 or by mail at 5668 West Flying Hawk Lane, Boise, Idaho 83709.


An Unexpected

Christmas Present

In place of the plastic reindeers of home were richly

To my mind, Christmas

is a time for family and

by Martin Gilbert friends. Visions of

frosty days, log fires, mantles draped in

sprays of holly and mistletoe. At first

glance, it is hard to relate these images

to a Christmas spent in rural Pakistan

studying dying vultures! To most eyes

the vulture is hardly an evocative subject,

with its scrawny serpentine neck

and unsavory table manners, it holds

none of the romance of the Bald Eagle

or the Peregrine Falcon. Surely only a

madman would spend the festive

season searching for such a bird, in a

remote land where Christmas is not

celebrated and a whiskey toast to the

New Year is an unknown pleasure?! I

have to admit that many a friendly eyebrow

was raised when I announced

that I would be leaving Scotland in

December to join The Peregrine Fund’s

Asian Vulture Crisis Project. However,

that was all a year ago and I am happy

to report that both the vultures and

Pakistan proved the doubters wrong!

Colorful Pakistan was both a surprise

and a joy to visit. The local’s own

festival, the Islamic Eid el Fitr, fell by

happy coincidence just two days after

my own Christmas day. While my

friends at home were busy sending

Christmas cards and choosing their

tree, Pakistan was buzzing to an anticipation

of its own. At the time I was

based in the provincial town of Dera

Ghazi Khan along the western bank of

the mighty Indus River. Late night

shoppers hurried over their purchases

of gifts and treats. The streets were

filled with the scents of dishes being

prepared and with bubbling wide-eyed


children brimming with excitement. In

place of the plastic reindeers of home

were stoic donkeys trimmed in tassels

and bells, and richly decorated camels,

their ankle-bracelets clinking as they

strode past. As with Christmas at home,

Eid was a happy season, marked only

by the warmth and overwhelming hospitality

of the Pakistani people.

By this time, life within the vulture

colonies was also full of activity. Most

pairs were on nests, the parents sharing

the burden of incubating their single

white eggs. Four long months of hard

work stretched ahead of them before

the chicks would leave their tree-top

platforms and make their way into the

brewing heat of a Punjabi spring. But

for now the colonies were shrouded in

the chill of winter. Early morning mists

blanketed the gnarled rows of sheesham

trees, retreating with the rise of

the winter sun. By mid-morning, air

would begin lifting in columns from

the warming fields of cotton and newly

planted wheat. Large groups of vultures

would circle together, climbing the

thermals, dispersing high over the

plains in the search for food. At times

several hundred could be seen together,

spiraling upward against a lapis-blue

sky. A truly magnificent sight, yet all

activity at the colonies was not of a

feathered nature.

On the ground below the trees two

young men were carefully pacing the

colony, recording the activity at the

nests, while engaged in a second and

more sinister task: the search for dead

and dying birds. Shakeel Ahmed and

Jamshed Chaudhry, two Pakistani students

working with the Ornithological

Society of Pakistan, under the training

and coordination of The Peregrine

Fund, had been charged with a vital job.

With reports of dead and dying vultures

coming from as far away as Asam in

northeastern India (1,500 miles to the

east), Shakeel and Jamshed, along with

their colleagues in two further Pakistani

vulture colonies, were working hard to

piece together vital fragments of information

in a conservation jigsaw puzzle

stretching across an entire subcontinent.

Stories of drastic declines in local

populations of the Oriental Whitebacked

Vulture and two close relatives,

the Slender-billed and Cliff Vultures,

had become depressingly frequent over

the proceeding months. The picture

that was emerging was a bleak one. The

populations of these three species had

dwindled to a fraction of their former

size, or vanished entirely over much, if

not all, of their former range. More

shocking still was the speed with which

the situation had unfolded. Where a

decade ago many hundreds of pairs

had nested in what were apparently

healthy colonies, the trees now stood

empty. It appeared that India had

borne the brunt of the losses, with

Nepal also heavily affected. Pakistan, it

seemed, was yet to experience declines

as dramatic as elsewhere, and apparently

still boasted large colonies of the

Oriental White-backed Vulture, at least.

Work was demanding, there was a

lot to do, and little time left to ponder

Christmas back home. While the students

tirelessly paced their colonies

marking nests and recording occupancy,

I was busy refining their studies,

taking time to survey other sites, and

Martin Gilbert.

White-backed Vultures.

decorated camels, their ankle-bracelets clinking...

Photos by Martin Gilbert

attending to the myriad of chores clamoring

for attention on the road to a

smooth-running season ahead.

Throughout my time in Dera Ghazi

Khan, my Pakistani companions made

sure that I was comfortable, and that I

was never short of warm company.

Although I may have been forgotten by

Father Christmas, life was not without

festive spirit, and on the night of

Christmas Eve I was to be treated to an

unexpected midnight gift.

It was a dark 11:30 when a knock at

the big metal gates echoed around the

courtyard. The great door swung open

to reveal a pair of wind-blown Pakistani

students, their hair swept back and faces

frozen by a late night motorbike journey

from the field site an hour away.

Shakeel and Jamshed came bearing an

impressive gift! I took the large jute

sack from the hands of the shivering

Shakeel and opened its contents onto

the floor. The body of a freshly dead

adult vulture rolled out, its wings

lolling passively. “We found it today,”

announced Jamshed. The three of us

stood in silence looking at the bird.

Despite having been in the country for

barely two weeks, this was already a

very familiar sight to me. This magnificent

bird, once a master of its element,

was reduced to a cold and limp form at

our feet, a stark reminder of the reality

facing south Asia’s vultures.

We worked together on the dead

vulture through the night. Such a fresh

bird was invaluable, and with careful

examination might reveal clues, vital in

piecing together the bigger picture. We

took photographs and measurements,

opening her up in an attempt to find

the cause of her demise. Once again, a

familiar site confronted us. Her organs

were pasted in a thick white material,

choked by uric acid. This was a sign

that our vulture had died from kidney

failure. This was a finding that had

been seen not only by ourselves in

other sites across the plains of Pakistan,

but had been reported in birds within

India also. We took samples of tissues

for analysis, trying to gather as much

information as possible.

Our evening’s work was drawing to

a close by the time the early morning

call to prayer drifted out from the many

mosques of Dera Ghazi Khan. The

evocative chant lilted across the still

darkened rooftops of the sleeping town,

replacing the peals of church bells,

which at that moment would be heralding

a new Christmas day in my Scottish

homeland many miles away. With sunrise

approaching we returned to our

beds for some much needed sleep. That

is to say, I returned to my bed. For this

night fell within the final days of the

holy month of Ramadan, through

which the students continued to

observe their daily fast, allowing no

food to pass their lips during hours of

daylight. While I was sleeping these

men were quietly offering prayer and

preparing a last meal before the sun

rose. To succumb to sleep would have

meant an entire day in the field, working

hard on empty stomachs to unlock

the mystery of what was killing the vultures

of south Asia.

I remained in Pakistan until July.

The cool of winter gave way to the

lengthy and blistering days of

summer, a journey of eight months

and 85 degrees

Fahrenheit! Eggs

hatched, chicks

grew steadily

and finally took

their first faltering

flight into a

very hostile

world. Long days

under the sweltering

sun colored

our students’

skin a

dark shade of

mahogany, and my

own ghostly complexion

a lobster

red! With temperatures

roaring past

115° F on a regular

basis, Christmas

and Eid became a

distant memory, yet

one aspect did not

change, the vultures

continued to die.

By the time I left

the subcontinent,

the students and

myself had located

almost 700 dead

vultures. At one site, 20% of

I took the

large jute

sack from the

hands of the


Shakeel and

opened its

contents onto

the floor.

nesting adults were dead by the

end of the season. As the

months tick past and we

approach another year’s festivities,

I am left wondering how

many more Eid celebrations and

out-of-place Christmases will

pass under the watchful eye of

the soaring vulture?


Searching for Birds of Prey

in Batoka Gorge, Africa

…rushes of


were predicated



buffalo, and


We had enjoyed an exhilarating

morning with Peregrines at two

by Ron Hartley nesting sites. One pair made a

brutal attack on a pair of Black Eagles, fiercely

defending two recently fledged juveniles. Three hundred

meters from a Teita site, we located a pair

nested on a huge cliff inside an old field with land

mines remaining from the war in the 1970s. We had

been in the bush for just over two weeks and other

minor rushes of adrenalin were predicated by elephants,

buffalo, and lions in the Chizarira National

Park. Ancient elephant paths provided the key access

points into those gorges which also hosted Teita and

Peregrine Falcons, Bat Hawks, Augur Buzzards, and

Crowned and Black Eagles. Close encounters with

the huge pachyderms is part of the normal run of

events in Chizarira. Three of my party were 18-yearold

schoolboys and another was a recent school

leaver. All accomplished young falconers, they were

graduates of my Falcon College Falconry Club.

Photo by Ron Hartley.

Floating through the Zambezi River Gorge, the

large blue Maravia raft dipped over rapid 11, tumbling

and twisting as the professional oarsman inadvertently

missed his line. Six of us in the black

Achilles raft quickly diverted to the left bank and

jumped out. The Maravia was in a big hole

(whirlpool), oarsman and assistant nowhere to be

seen. I shouted at my team to make their way downstream

over the massive black basaltic boulders and

search. A long 10 minutes elapsed before the two

figures came into view. We had feared the worst, so

it was an incredibly welcome sight! The oarsman

was indeed fortunate as he had spent many long seconds

of hydraulic motion in the whirlpool’s vortex.

Then he told us that somebody drowned here the

week before. Meanwhile, the raft was still stuck.

Numerous casts of the rescue line failed to lock on

the frame, and after 30 minutes of frustrating effort

the raft bounced hard a few times, turned over, and

spewed out downstream. We jumped into the turbulent

Zambezi River, grabbing the raft and some of

the gear that had separated. A barrel containing my

Colt 45 pistol and a Kowa spotting scope had gone

down. Losing a firearm was a major problem. I carried

the pistol because on a previous trip our kayak

support had been chased by a large crocodile—we

pulled the kayaker onto the raft just in time–and I

did not fancy the prospect of a “flat dog” (crocodile)

popping the raft.

Exhorting the team to pull hard, we extracted the

Achilles from the river and portaged rapid 11. With

15 km remaining to get to a pre-set camp, it was

clear that the last section would have to be negotiated

in the dark, probably a first. Fortunately we

were able to take a “chicken run” around the notorious

rapid 18 (sinisterly labeled Oblivion) in the twilight.

Just downstream of this we passed a Pel’s

Fishing Owl, beautifully poised on a rock just above

the river, our first record of this species in the gorge.

The glow of the campfire was a warm sight indeed.

We still had another two days on the river. Raptor

research in Africa provides many challenges!


Photo by Bill Heinrich

Above: Rafting the Zambezi.

Left: Victoria Falls viewed through the mist

from the Zambezi River Gorge.

Our Future…

Is in Your Hands

Philippine Eagle. Photo courtesy of F.R.E.E. Ltd.

Support The Peregrine Fund!!

You may donate to The Peregrine

Fund by using the enclosed

envelope, through our secure

server on our web site, or by designating

a portion of your paycheck

through your workplace giving program.

The Peregrine Fund participates

in the Combined Federal Campaign

(#0945) and other payroll deduction

campaigns through Earth Share. Many

employers will match the charitable

contributions of employees. Ask your

personnel or human resources representative

for a matching gift form, fill

out your portion, and enclose it with

your gift. Please call Linda Behrman

at (208) 362-3716 for more information.

All donations are tax deductible.

Our Promise:

We will only directly request your

contribution once a year and then it

will be by mail, so please give generously.

If you do not donate, a couple

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Membership benefits:

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Planned Giving

A planned giving program targeted

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return an income for life while helping

us with our important work.

Planned giving includes bequests, gift

annuities, trusts, and many other

forms of gifts. Gifts are placed in our

endowment to help conserve birds of

prey and their environments in perpetuity.

At the discretion of our Board,

some income from the endowment is

used to meet our annual goals.

If you wish to make a provision in

your will, the following general form

is suggested:

“I give, devise, and bequeath to The

Peregrine Fund, Inc. an Idaho not-forprofit

corporation, located on the date

hereof at the World Center for Birds of

Prey, 5668 West Flying Hawk Lane,

Boise, Idaho 83709, the sum of $____

(or specifically described property).”

For information on bequests and

other planned giving opportunities,

consult your attorney or contact

Jeff Cilek, Vice President, at

(208) 362-3716 or by e-mail at


Visit Our

World from

Your Home

You can also participate with The

Peregrine Fund simply by learning more

about what we do. Our award-winning

web site (www.peregrinefund.org) is regularly

updated with new and interesting information

from our projects around the world. Join our

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The E-Newsletter is free! Sign up to receive it

using the enclosed envelope or through our

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Our Education Birds:

Ambassadors for


Each year thousands of people, young and

old, from all walks of life, “meet” our education

birds at the Velma Morrison

by Nancy Freutel

Interpretive Center at the World Center for Birds of Prey.

While the birds do not ‘talk’ to our guests, they manage to

speak volumes to all who see them. To watch the admiration

of an avid birder gazing into the bright eyes of Gus,

our young Peregrine Falcon, or to see the

expression of delight on the faces of

school children as they meet Jack, our

Golden Eagle, is testimony to the

power of up-close encounters

with birds of prey.

Each of our education

birds is priceless when it

comes to acquainting our

visitors with birds of prey

and their role in nature.

Nothing can compare to

experiencing the penetrating

gaze of an eagle

from a few feet away or

feeling the rush of air as a Peregrine moves its wings. These

encounters leave a lasting and memorable impression on

people and provide them with an insight into the important

role birds of prey play in our environment.

Visitors to the Interpretive Center may see juvenile and

adult Peregrine Falcons, Aplomado Falcons, Bateleur Eagles,

California Condors, Bald Eagles, a Harpy Eagle,

Golden Eagle, Barred-Owl, Eurasian Eagle

Owl, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier,

Rough-Legged Hawk, and an

American Kestrel. Interactive displays,

multi-media shows, guided

tours, and a gift shop are also

available. Come out and see

us the next time you are

“soaring” in our neck of

the woods. For directions

and more information on

the visitor’s center, please

visit our web site,

www.peregrinefund.org, or

call (208) 362-8687.


A few of

our education birds, counterclockwisefrom

top: Barred-Owl,

Bateleur Eagle, Peregrine Falcon,

and Golden Eagle.

Photo credits:

Owl, Kurt K. Burnham;

Peregrine Falcon, Karen

Wattenmaker; Bateleur

Eagle and Golden Eagle,

Stephen J. Krasemann.

Use the order form and envelope in this

newsletter, or call 1-800-377-3721 to order.

Visit our web site at www.peregrinefund.org

for these and other great items. Remember all

purchases from our catalog support our projects.

Peregrine Fund Lapel Pin


Our pewter lapel pin

will declare your support

of The Peregrine

Fund. In the center is

our logo, encircled in

royal blue with the

inscription “The

Peregrine Fund

Founded 1970.”

2001 Christmas Ornament


The Peregrine Falcon is featured

on the 2001 Christmas

ornament. The image was

created by John Schmitt and

the ornament produced by

Barlow Designs, Inc. Each

ornament is engraved on the

back with “The Peregrine

Fund 2001.”

Visit our web site for the seven-year collection of ornaments.

1994 Peregrine Falcon

1995 Bald Eagle

1996 Aplomado Falcon

1997 California Condor

1998 Harpy Eagle

1999 Madagascar Red


2000 Gyrfalcon

(Left) Our national symbol,

the Bald Eagle, in soft,

huggable plush. Standing

about 10” tall, this eagle

sports a “World Center for

Birds of Prey” banner.


Eagle Stuffed Animals

(Right) Our little Bald

Eagle bean bag toy

accented with bright

yellow beak and feet.

This eagle wears a

removable blue World

Center for Birds of Prey

bandanna. Approximately

6” tall. $5.95

Peregrine Fund Hats


Made of cotton canvas and embroidered with a

detailed head of a Peregrine Falcon and the words

The Peregrine Fund.” Available in denim blue, dark

green, and khaki.

Denim Shirt


A 100% cotton, long-sleeve denim shirt sporting

The Peregrine Fund insignia above the

breast pocket.

Adult S, M, L, XL, or XXL

Life with an Indian Prince

By John J. Craighead and

Frank C. Craighead, Jr. The

experiences of the authors

while living with the royal

family of Bhavnagar, India, in

1940-41. Vol. 2 in the

Archives of American

Falconry Heritage Publication

Series complete with more

than 350 illustrations, twothirds

in color. Published in

collaboration with The Craighead Wildlife-Wildlands Institute. 300 pages,

limited edition.

Standard Edition $135

Patron’s Edition $320 (Includes half-leather case binding, handmade marbled

endpapers, and photographic print of authors.)

Photo by Kurt Stolzenburg • Front cover photo by Jack Stephens, jackstephensimages.com

The Peregrine Fund

World Center for Birds of Prey

5668 West Flying Hawk Lane

Boise, ID 83709

United States of America





Boise, ID

Permit No. 606


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