PADRE ISLAND, Texas — A national non-profit is working locally to bring back a species which once filled the skies over South Texas.
Until the 1950's Aplomado falcons were plentiful in the Coastal Bend.
“We felt we needed to speed up their recovery a little bit,” said Brian Mutch of The Peregrine Fund.
This week, The Peregrine Fund brought six baby Apolmados to Padre Island. The species was declared endangered in 1986, but Aplomados had been bouncing back, with South Texas playing a major part. That is until Hurricane Harvey hit.
“Hurricane Harvey took out about 60% of the breeding pairs on Matagorda and St. Joe's Islands,” said Nueces Co. Coastal Parks Director Scott Cross.
“We lost ten pairs in one night,” added Mutch. “Those were adults, those were breeders, so that was a really catastrophic hit to the population.”
Those ten pair were more than half of the area's 18 pre-Harvey. The Peregrine Fund worked with Nueces County's Coastal Parks Department and found a spot on Padre Island just over the county line.
“This Kleberg (County) land we have out here, the natural beauty of it, it's perfect for what we want to do,” said Cross.
The Peregrine Fund built two new "hack boxes”, elevated nests designed to keep the falcons safe. Earlier this week, the baby birds were brought to their new home.
“We're putting them in their hack boxes where they'll grow until about the end of August,” said Cross. “By that time, they've got the independence and they can fly.”
For the most part, the Aplomados will be fine their own. However, a pair of Peregrine Fund ‘babysitters’ will be close by, keeping an eagle-eyed view on the young falcons.
“Those guys are going to spend the summer with these birds,” said Mutch. “They feed them, take notes on the birds, monitor their progression.”
And when they're ready, these babies will leave the nest and fly on their own.
If these babies thrive and are successful, The Peregrine Fund says bringing baby Aplomados here could be an annual thing. Meanwhile, Cross says Nueces Co. plans to build an observation deck for the public to get a better look.