RESEARCHERS are hoping to gain some much needed insight into Australia’s most understudied bird, the black falcon, after releasing a rescued fledgling back into the wild.
University of New England researchers, Steve Debus and Alice Baeur had been watching a pair of black falcons raise a chick for about two months.
“We noticed it wasn’t in the nest and we found it on the ground the next day, with some soft tissue damage to its wing,” Ms Bauer said.
The young falcon had fallen out of the tree, but was still too young to fly.
The researchers took it to WIRES care Jay Price, who looked after it for 10 days.
Once it was strong enough, they tagged it and released back at the site of its nest, hoping its parents would find it.
The young falcon, who had only learnt to fly the day before, took off on an unsteady flight path before gaining confidence, then began to soared and called for its parents.
After a short flight, it land briefly in a tree, before losing its grip and making a wobbly decent to the ground.
Ms Price said as far as maiden flights go, it was a “pretty strong flight”.
“When I took it up to the aviary yesterday, it only flew from the ground straight up to the perch, which is six-foot high,” she said.
“The bird has been in care for 10 days and it’s lost a little bit of muscle tone – but it won’t take long to build it back. It’s a bit like going back to the gym after taking a week off.”
Ms Baeur said it was great to see the young falcon gliding on its first flight.
“It look like he was really enjoying himself,” she said.
With so little know about the black falcon, tagging a young bird is a rare opportunity.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of study because they are rare and also hard to find,” Ms Bauer said.
“It’s particularly hard to find breeding pairs. I’ve watched four nest this year and all of them, except for this one, failed to produce chicks.”
Ms Bauer has been studying black falcons for about a year and said they were “deadly hunters”.
“They will cooperatively hunt, so one will dive down close to a wheat crop or field to flush out quail or whatever is down there, then the other one will dive in behind it and smash into whatever has been flushed,” she said.
“When the female is sitting on the eggs, the male will bring back all the food for her.
“Sometimes she’ll encourage him to sit on the eggs for a while to give her a little break. We’ve even record him sitting on the baby chicks, which is really special, that hasn’t been recorded before.”
Once they come out of the nest, the parents will only feed the fledglings for two weeks, then it’s on its own.
Ms Bauer and Mr Debus will keep an eye out for the young falcon as it grows.
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