The New Jersey Falconry Club has a long history of Raptor Conservation in the state. The club was originally founded by raptor banders, rehabbers, and bird of prey enthusiasts.
Kestrel Box Project
The American Kestrels numbers have been declining in recent years and the NJFC has undertaken a project to help the birds re-establish themselves back in their traditional breeding grounds. Club members built and placed many kestrel nesting boxes out in parks, farms and on private land. With great delight it was discovered that several of these nesting boxed were used the very first season they were installed.
Raptor banding has been a valuable tool used in bird of prey research for decades. Once a bird is safely trapped it is affixed with a uniquely numbered leg band supplied by the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Its species, location, age and size along with other statistics are recorded and it is then released. If the bird is later recovered sometime hundreds of miles and possibly another country away the data collected expands the knowledge of these birds life cycle. The NJFC can boast that it has several members that have been banding raptors for over 30 years.
DDT, Peregrines & Falconers
Most people are aware of the fact that we almost lost the peregrine as a result of the agricultural use of an insecticide called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). Its extensive use resulted in moving through the food chain and causing peregrine egg shells to be so thin that the eggs would break. As a result, in 1970 the Peregrine was placed on the U.S Endangered Species List. Two years later, in 1972 DDT was banned from being used in the United States.
What most people don’t know is that Falconers played a major role in bringing the Peregrine back from near extinction. In 1970 Tom Cade, a falconer and ornithologist at Cornell University along with a number of other falconer founded The Peregrine Fund. These individuals and other members of the falconry community realized that the Peregrines that they had in their possession could be used to breed Peregrines in captivity to be released into the wild, so they donated their birds to The Peregrine Fund, and as a result, between 1974 and 1997 more than 4,000 Peregrines were released to the wild by The Peregrine Fund.
On August 25, 1999 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed the Peregrine from the Endangered Species List. If you observe a Peregrine in the wild, THANK A FALCONER.
The Effect of Falconers Trapping Raptors on Raptor Mortality
Studies have shown that an estimated 75 to 80% of immature raptors die each year. Raptors taken by Falconers defy this statistic.
New Jersey Falconry Regulations allow for Falconers to trap passage raptors (one less than a year old) during the trapping season which runs from September 1 through December 31.
Once trapped, most Falconers train their birds and fly them through the winter; housing them in a facility inspected and approved by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife; and feeding them through their first winter months (raptors have an extremely high metabolism and literally have to eat an amount of food equivalent to their weight each week in order to survive through the winter. During the first winter when juvenile birds have yet to hone their hunting skills, many are not able to capture a sufficient amount of food and as a result die.)
Most falconers who trap their birds in the fall release them in the spring. These released birds which were cared for through those difficult first winter months, now have a significant amount of experience as a result of the Falconer flying them on game, and following release, go on to defeat the odds and live the remaining years of their lives in the wild. Another example of how Falconry benefits the wild raptor populations.