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Truth, lies and falcons

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In the "Bred For Success" article, author Stephanie Paige Ogburn perpetuates a common myth when she writes, "A well-trained falcon brings the catch (prey) uneaten to its master, who rewards it with food" (HCN, 11/13/06). Sheer fallacy: Falcons serve no master and they don’t retrieve.

In comparing released aplomado falcons to an "annual crop of flowers" that will need to be "re-seeded" forever, Ogburn misses the mark. She gripes that of the 1,257 aplomados the Peregrine Fund has released in Texas over the last decade, only about 100 have paired up for mating. Ogburn is either unaware of, or has chosen not to include, some pertinent statistics. Wild raptors (including aplomados) experience a 70-80 percent mortality rate in their first year and 20 percent rates thereafter. Pair bonding does not even begin until the falcons are in their third or fourth year. Further, rates of dispersal are hard to quantify in free-ranging falcons, but it’s a safe bet that there are individual and/or aplomado pairs existing outside of known territories. In other words, a net gain of 50 known pairs of aplomados is cause for celebration, not despair.

I understand why some people would like to use the aplomado as an environmental tool, and I don’t blame them. But I can also understand why the Peregrine Fund would choose a "minimal amount of controversy" approach in their conservation efforts — an approach that has enabled them to be effective both here and abroad.

Joe Roy III
Aerial Predators and Ecology
Grass Valley, California

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