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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
First Ever Release of Orange-breasted Falcons a Success!
Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project    Share
Orange-breasted Falcon <br />chicks in hack box
Orange-breasted Falcon
chicks in hack box
A big day for all of us involved in the Orange-breasted Falcon Project occurred on 13 May 2005. It was the day when we released, for the first time ever, two young Orange-breasted Falcons using time-proven hacking methods. Though The Peregrine Fund has been using these techniques to successfully release other falcons like the Peregrine and the Aplomado, this would be the first time ever that we would try it with this species. Despite “pre-release jitters” we were feeling optimistic. After all, the birds had been eating well, and they were alert and active while in the box; in other words, they were ready!

That morning, Angel Muela, volunteer Andrew Plant, Hidden Valley Inn managers Lisa and Craig Milner, and I headed out to the release site. Angel and I opened the door to the hack box at around 8:00 a.m. and then joined everyone else in the blind—scopes, cameras and binoculars in hand. Almost an hour later, we caught our first glimpse of one of the falcons, known as Black 20, peeking its head around the door. His initial forays out of the hack box were quite comical! First, he hopped to the edge of the door jamb, then out of the box, then quickly back in again where he quickly disappeared deep inside the hack box. However, the temptation of the fresh quail just outside the door caused him to re-appear within a few minutes. Apparently a bit timid about entering this unknown world, but still hungry enough to want to eat, Black very cleverly perched on the edge of the door jamb, stretched his body and began to feed from the quail without ever leaving the hack box! Black 20 had eaten quite a bit before the second falcon, known as Blue D9, came into view. Eventually, both birds made their way onto the hack box platform where they fed, stretched their wings, and slept.

Recently released Orange-breasted <br />Falcons on hack box
Recently released Orange-breasted
Falcons on hack box
By the second day, the birds were ready to fly. Blue was the first to go, though this initial flight was more of an accident than an intention. He was blown from the hack box by a sudden gust of wind. As we were keeping an eye on him to make sure that he could get up into a safe spot, Black decided to show off and made a beautiful flight toward the east. We thought he was going to disappear into the horizon, but instead, he made a nice circle and landed in a dead pine a few feet from the hack box. For the next day and a half, both birds called back and forth to each other, following each other awkwardly from tree to tree. Though their flights were impressive, their landings left much to be desired. Unsure of how to land, they would very ungracefully flap and cling to the tree trunks, looking for all intents and purposes just like woodpeckers!

By the third day, they were excellent flyers and much better landers! Our next question was—would they return to the hack box to feed? They hadn’t fed the day before and we wanted to make sure that they knew where to find food. By 3:00 that afternoon, we were relieved to see Black make the first move. He landed on the hack box and fed until his crop was full. The next day, Blue followed suit. Today, both birds continue to feed regularly, that is when they are not on wonderful adventures chasing woodpeckers and turkey vultures, of course.

Monitoring the released Orange-breasted Falcons
Monitoring the released Orange-breasted Falcons
As of the writing of this update, almost three weeks have passed and the falcons are doing well. Our tireless volunteers, Andrew Plant and Monty Wallace, continue to monitor the birds for 14 hours a day every day. They send in reports almost daily and have helped to make the project such a success.

And as if things couldn’t get any better, while we were in Belize, Angel and I paid a visit to the wild nest from which we pulled the eggs that produced Black 20 and Blue D9 (see Notes from the Field, March 2005 to read more about that adventure). We wanted to see if this pair had laid another set of eggs this season. Needless to say, we were delighted when we spotted the female perched on a small cliff ledge. To her right were two, fluffy Orange-breasted Falcon chicks!

Find more articles about Orange-breasted Falcon, Neotropics

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