Feds say falcons recovered; no more chick rescues

After decades of scrambling on the underside of California bridges to pluck endangered peregrine falcon chicks from ill-placed nests, inseminating female birds and releasing captive-raised fledglings, wildlife biologists have been so successful in bringing back the powerful raptors that they now threaten Southern California’s endangered shorebird breeding sites.

As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will no longer permit peregrine chick rescues from Bay Area bridges, a move that they concede will likely lead to fluffy chicks tumbling into the water below and drowning next spring.

“It’s a paradox,” said Marie Strassburger, chief of the federal agency’s division of migratory birds and habitat in Sacramento. “Yes, chicks are cute. I won’t deny that for a second.”

But she said the loss of chicks that fledge from the nest too early is a natural part of life.

Peregrines nest high on cliffs, trees, buildings and bridges because they hunt by diving, at speeds topping 200 mph, at wild birds they like to eat. When fledging, young peregrines fly well and land poorly. On cliffs, there are plenty of easy spots for a crash landing. On buildings, they scramble back onto window sills or ledges when their first flights go awry, or they hit the sidewalk and can be carried back to their nests. But on bridges, with smooth steel or concrete supports, chicks find no perch and often just hit the water.

“We see the loss of a chick by natural causes as an educational moment as this happens in nature all the time,” said Strassburger. “The peregrine falcons on the bridges in the Bay Area just happen to be in a very visible spot so the public is more aware of it.”

The recovery of peregrines, and now their potential threat to other species, underscores the fragile balance of nature that biologists have struggled with in recent years: Saving bighorn sheep in Yosemite National Park meant hunting protected mountain lions; reintroducing gray wolves in the Rockies brought a backlash when ranchers complained they were killing livestock; and bringing golden eagle populations back on California’s Channel Islands nearly devastated the island fox, one of the world’s smallest canines.

The decision to stop saving peregrine chicks is strictly local, says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird specialist Alicia King at their Arlington, Virginia headquarters. She said she didn’t know of any other place where this was happening, and there’s no national position. She noted that in many communities the peregrines are beloved and their chicks are treasured.

“But birds sometimes nest in places that are not the best places for them to nest, and while it’s hard to watch, sometimes nature has to take its course,” she said.

No one is suggesting that the drowning deaths of a dozen or so chicks taken from Bay Area bridges is going to tip the entire species back into a risky situation. Nor is anyone suggesting that allowing a few birds to be saved would actually damage the dwindling population of at-risk shorebirds hundreds of miles south.

But there are two very different sentiments about how to proceed.

For wildlife biologist Glenn Stewart, who directs the University of California, Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, allowing baby birds to topple into the choppy, frigid San Francisco Bay and drown is an indefensible approach.

“Yes, peregrines are recovered, but should we let this sometimes vigorously protected and sometimes left-to-drown resource be squandered?” said Stewart, who wrote “Eye to Eye with Eagles Hawks and Falcons” published earlier this year.

And conversely, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it makes no sense to permit chick rescues in one part of California when they are busy having to trap and move them away from threatened species habitat elsewhere in the state.

Thus Stewart was informed this year, as he applied for his annual springtime permit to remove chicks, that this would be his last.

Peregrine falcons were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973; at the time, there were just 11 of the birds known to be living in California and about 100 nationwide. Over the next three decades, independent biologists working with federal and state researchers successfully rescued the species, largely by releasing more than 4,000 captive-raised peregrines in 28 states, but also through meticulous conservation, ranging from chick rescues to incubating and hatching eggs.

Today there are around 2,000 in California, and as many as 10,000 more across the U.S., where they’ve become wildly popular thanks to live, streaming webcams above their nests and annual media accounts of their rescues from New York to Portland, Ore. KathyQ, a peregrine nesting in downtown Indianapolis, has her own Facebook page.

Falcon fans from around the world log in regularly to watch peregrines perched in their nests below bridges or on ledges of tall buildings, commenting excitedly when the 1 ounce chicks hatch, and weeks later, gathering in crowds below as they attempt their first flights. In many places, the birds even have names: Diamond Lil and her mate Dapper Dan have nested on the 33rd floor of the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. building in downtown San Francisco since 2008.

This spring was poignant for Stewart, who began working with peregrines in the 1970s, at a time most thought they would go extinct. For what may well be his last time, in April he plucked four soccer ball-sized chicks from a nest below the Richardson Bay Bridge that spans an inlet in the north end of the San Francisco Bay.

“They look soft and fuzzy, but they have a very dense coat of down, their feet are heavy and they bite,” he said.

The chicks were taken to the University of California, Davis, veterinary school where they were cared for before being moved to a building top where they were released. Costs are covered by the research groups.

Bill Heinrich who directs Interpretive Center at the Boise, Idaho-based Peregrine Fund said after so much effort, it makes no sense to halt rescues, especially since taxpayers no longer cover any of the costs. He hadn’t heard of similar decisions anywhere else, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued no national directives.

“These are the most beautiful birds of prey in the world and also the fastest,” he said. “We spent millions of dollars and decades bringing them back from the brink of extinction. I can understand why they don’t want to pay for their rescues, but it makes no sense not to allow it.”

But in recent years, Fish and Wildlife official Strassburger said, biologists have had to move peregrines from several Southern California breeding areas for endangered gulls called California least terns and threatened Western snowy plovers, sensitive little shorebirds that nest on beaches.

“It’s difficult to think that sometimes we end up in that place, where you recover an endangered predator to the point they become a threat,” said National Wildlife Federation senior scientist Douglas Inkley in Reston, Virginia. “Predators must be part of the picture. The long term answer is that we need to recover those prey species so neither population is at risk.”

Biologist Stewart understands the long-term goals, but says the decision to ban him from saving a handful of chicks from Bay Area bridges next year is “dumbfounding.”

ad-high_impact_4
News
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like