An injured Peregrine Falcon, the world’s fastest animal, has found its wings again thanks to the help of the Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital and Bird Show trainers.
The young male Falcon, thought to have just celebrated its first birthday was delivered to the Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital in July by the Native Animal Trust Fund after being found in the Hunter Valley with a broken wing.
A thorough veterinary examination of this powerful predator revealed that the individual was very thin and weak and had sustained a compound fracture to its right wing.
The severity of the break compromised the birds chances of survival, however to give it the best possibility of flying again Taronga Zoo Vet, Kimberly Vinette Herrin trialled a technique to splint the wing, using a method she had learned at a raptor workshop in the United States.
After two months of veterinary treatment, the wing was successfully re-aligned and the big task of preparing the bird for release back to the wild commenced in September.
Bird Trainer, Erin Stone, said:” The big challenge for this bird was to see if it was able to fly properly once the wing had healed sufficiently.”
“If we had of just released the Peregrine back at the Hunter Valley without building up its muscle tone and ensuring the bird was able to free fly and use the wing to its full ability, there could have been a very real chance the bird may have perished. With a compromised wing it would not have been able to fly at the speeds required to catch its prey.”
Peregrine Falcons can fly in excess of 300 kilometres / hour. Their streamlined bodies provide minimal air resistance whilst their bullet like bodies allows these birds to capture their prey with an incredible amount of force.
The training process has been a long one. The Zoo’s Bird Show team first had to build a level of trust and a relationship with the bird. Then slowly the bird was reintroduced to flying, first on a creance and short distances. Now it has progressed to flying freely, soaring between the bird trainers who are stationed some distance from one another.
“Our veterinary team are keeping a close eye on this patient. Now that the Peregrine is flying freely we can get a really good look at how the Peregrine is moving and the mobility throughout the entire wing.”
“Even though the right hand side is still drooping slightly, the Peregrine is flying very confidently. Although our vets need to give it the final tick of approval, we are hopeful that the bird will be able to be released back into the wild sooner rather than later,” said Erin.
“The flight training is also really important to help build up the bird’s muscle tone and strength. The stronger this little Peregrine is prior to its release the better chance it will have of surviving out there on its own.”
Peregrines are one of the few species which have adapted well to co-existing with people. They can be found in a very wide variety of habitats from open grasslands through to open forests. The birds have also added metropolitan habitat to its areas of usage and throughout the world the Peregrine can be quite commonly found in major cities, using windowsills of skyscrapers as perfect nesting sites.