RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – One of the rarest birds in South Texas is experiencing a remarkable recovery. Richard Moore takes us out to the remote coastal prairie where endangered Aplomado falcons are raising their young.
Perched atop a thorny yucca out on the windswept coastal prairie of deep South Texas, a rare Aplomado falcon guards the chick tucked into the nest below.
When the Spaniards first traversed the vast grasslands of what is now southernmost Texas, they beheld a strikingly beautiful falcon perched on scattered yuccas.
The elegant bird was dark gray on the upper half of its body with a black “cummerbund” across its lower chest and cinnamon colored thighs. They called it the aplomado in reference to its dark gray or lead coloring.
Soon, the male is joined by its mate, and as he soars off she settles into the nest with her offspring.
The rare Aplomado falcon vanished from South Texas some 75 years ago due to habitat destruction, egg collecting and harmful pesticides, but thanks to a restoration effort between the Peregrine Fund, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and private landowners the endangered falcon is once again thriving along the coastal prairie.
It’s time for the afternoon feeding as the female adroitly tears bite size chunks of meat and carefully offers them to the hungry youngster.
Since the fluffy rascal is the only occupant of the nest, the little falcon gets all the attention of its parents, who have no trouble securing plenty of avian prey to share with their sole charge.
There are now approximately 70 known Aplomados dispersed along the coastal prairie between the Rio Grande and Matagorda Island, and hopefully those numbers will increase over the years so that one day the endangered falcon will once again have a secure home throughout its historic range.
This chick is some two weeks old and has two or three weeks to go before it’s ready to leave the nest and join its parents in flight across the sweeping coastal prairie.