With the opening of his hacking box door at dawn, Rocky, a young 7-week old, male peregrine falcon, was released yesterday.Within 30 minutes, he accomplished his first flight and was out of sight of viewers who waited a short distance away. The day prior to his release, he was fitted with leg bands which will aid in future identification and with a tail-mounted radio transmitter for tracking.
A fledged peregrine falcon remains with his parents for as long as two months, while he learns to hunt. High speed flyers, peregrines primarily feed on birds that they catch in flight or from a perch. But both the strategy and precision of this hunt must be learned.
The radio transmitter allows Dale and John Stokes to monitor Rocky’s progress for the next few weeks so they can assist if something goes wrong. Dale and John obtained Rocky from a falconer in Minnesota for a fee of $600 in order to release him in a process called hacking. The hacking box (see previous post) serves as an artificial nest and fledging home. Raptors are known to imprint on their fledging area and will generally return to that area when it is time to nest and raise their own young. Peregrines nest on high bluffs and it is hoped that after adolescent wandering for the next two years, Rocky will return to nest in the Lookout Mountain area.
It was falconers like Dale and John Stokes who alerted the world to the effects of DDT on our raptors and subsequently saved many species from extinction. Peregrine falcon populations plummeted from 1950 to 1970 due to DDT poisoning, but the hacking re-introductions that began in 1970 have restored species numbers. Peregrines were removed from the national endangered list in 1999 but remain on the state endangered list in Georgia and TN.
More than falconers, Dale and John Stokes have a combined 49 years of experience with birds and have devoted their lives to educating the public about raptors. They conduct live birds of prey shows at Rock City, near Chattanooga and visit regional schools, parks and festivals to provide programs.
Links to peregrine information: Dale and John's S.O.A.R. blog site with update's on Rocky's progress. Chattanooga Times article on release. Cornell's interesting facts on the peregrine falcon.
For the Love of It...
...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.