In today’s exclusive story, Richard Moore takes us out to the undeveloped stretch of South Padre Island where researchers are trapping, banding and releasing Peregrine falcons.
For millennia the sun has been rising over South Padre Island, and just as surf inexorably rushes to shore…Peregrine falcons habitually soar along the coast during their annual spring and fall migrations.
The undeveloped stretch of beach and tidal flats stretching some 25 miles north of the town of South Padre Island is perhaps the most important site in the western hemisphere for Peregrines to hunt their avian prey during migration from breeding grounds in the arctic to wintering grounds in South America.
For 42 years now, biologists have been monitoring the biannual migration along South Padre’s shores. Greg Doney with Earth Span is the projects coordinator.
“On a broad scale and certainly working here, what we have learned is that migratory Peregrines are a real good sentinel to monitor potential stressors for avian populations as a whole.”
The Peregrine falcon almost vanished due to the harmful pesticide DDT, but with the banning of DDT in 1972 Peregrines have rebounded dramatically and are no longer an endangered species.
In a joint effort between the Peregrine Fund and Earth Span, biologists have now captured and banded more than 10,000 Peregrine falcons on South Padre, which represents one of the most successful and longest continuous field research projects in the world.
“Habitat loss is certainly a concern. We are looking at mercury just to get an understanding of it. In general, Peregrines are doing well now, so we don’t have an immediate concern, but there is a whole list of potential, so to say. And, it is good to keep an eye out before a problem does exist or begin to emerge.” Says Doney.