15 Feb 2015

Saving the falcon

From Spectrum, 12:05 pm on 15 February 2015

Falcons Fern in a vineyard
'Advocacy' falcon Fern in a vineyard. Image courtesy of Marlborough Falcon Trust.

They dive-bomb their prey at 150 kph making the native falcon (karearea) New Zealand’s fastest and most agile bird. But with fewer than 6000 left in the wild, these supreme aerial hunters may not be seen in our skies for much longer.

‘We must save the falcon from extinction – and we can....’ - Marlborough Falcon Trust chairman Andy Frost.

Falcons Carer Diana Dobs and Marlborough Falcon Trust Chairman Andy Frost discuss the chicks progress
Aviary manager Diana Dobson and Marlborough Falcon Trust chairman Andy Frost discuss the falcon chicks.

The Marlborough Falcon Trust (supported by Brancott wines) is successfully breeding falcons in captivity and releasing the young birds back into the wild.

Falcons pan
Newly hatched and very young chicks. Image courtesy Marlborough Falcon Trust.

Falcons are threatened on three fronts:-

  • their ground-level nests are predated by introduced mammals.
  • they are often killed or injured by farmers and the public who see them as a threat to chickens. But, in fact, falcons take their prey in flight, not on the ground.
  • birds are electrocuted by uninsulated power transformers.

Falcon pan
Chick with down and a hollow log is shelter. Image courtesy Marlborough Falcon Trust.

The captive breeding and release programme can only succeed if it is accompanied by public support and enthusiasm for the survival of the species. To this end, Diana Dobson takes MFT’s ‘advocacy’ bird Fern out to meet communities and demonstrates Fern’s beauty and abilities in flight.

Falcon pan
Chicks are very 'talkative' and aviary manager Diana Dobson with Fern image courtesy Marlborough Falcon Trust.

Spectrum’s Jack Perkins drops in on the trust during and after the nesting season.

Falcons Fern on the glove
'Advocacy' falcon Fern on the glove and ready for flight (courtesy Marlborough Falcon Trust)