Falcon, white-tailed kite released after recovering at zoo

BROWNSVILLE — After being cared for and rehabilitated by the Gladys Porter Zoo veterinary staff since late August, a peregrine falcon and a white-tailed kite were released yesterday back into the wild.

The falcon was injured at the beach on South Padre Island and was taken to the zoo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife on Aug. 30, and has been under care for almost a month and a half, officials said.

During its stay at the zoo, the falcon was recovering from a broken leg bone.

Gladys Porter Zoo Senior Veterinarian Thomas DeMaar said the white-tailed kite was found in Brownsville, and it was a little slow in feeding itself. The veterinary staff had been taking care of the white-tailed kite since July.

“So what we did is feed it and give it a little extra time to grow up,” DeMaar said. “It may have been separated from its parents a little bit young and it wasn’t injured but was unable to fly.”

The falcon and the white-tailed kite were released at the intersection of Old Port Isabel Road and Highway 550, in open land because they like to hover over the fields and dive in to catch their prey.

“The peregrine falcon is one of the species that was heavily affected by DDT (or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) in the 1960s and 1970s, the species almost went extinct,” DeMaar said. “DDT was an agricultural pesticide that was widely used in the United States, and as it accumulated in the wild food chain and it accumulated in the birds it caused them to have thin egg shells. So the eggs would break while the parents were tending to them.”

DeMaar said that since the U.S. banned the use of DDT, the peregrine falcon has saved itself from extinction.

A majority of the birds that come to South Texas are migrants and are either born or nest in Northeastern Canada, Alaska or Greenland, and they migrate south to Mexico or South America for the winter, De Maar said.

“The peregrine falcon population is really fascinating here in South Texas, because these birds that are born in Alaska or in Greenland all migrate right past here,” DeMaar said.

Did you know?

The Peregrine Falcon is a raptor, or bird of prey.

Adults have blue-gray wings, dark brown backs, a buff colored underside with brown spots, and white faces with a black tear stripe on their cheeks. They have a hooked beaks and strong talons.

Their name comes from the Latin word peregrinus, which means “to wander.” They are commonly referred to as the Duck Hawk.

Peregrine falcons are the fastest-flying birds in the world — they are able to dive at 200 miles per hour.

Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus

Diet: Carnivores

Average life span in The Wild: Up to 17 years

Size: Body, 14 to 19 in; wingspan, 3.3 to 3.6 ft

Weight: 18.8 to 56.5 oz

Sources: National Geographic, Defenders of Wildlife