Critically Endangered Ridgway’s Hawks breeding in Dominican Republic
For first time, endangered Ridgway’s Hawks released by The Peregrine Fund produce chick in Dominican Republic
June 2013. For the first time, two critically endangered Ridgway’s Hawks that were released by The Peregrine Fund have produced a chick outside their previously small stronghold in a national park in Dominican Republic, the only place where the bird exists.
In 2008, The Peregrine Fund began an innovative “assisted dispersal” project to re-introduce the species by determining whether a breeding population could be re-established in the bird’s former range. Biologists working on the project are moving young hawks from Los Haitises National Park and releasing them at suitable sites up to 100 miles away.
“We are thrilled to see a positive result of our experiment with the arrival of this little chick,” said Russell Thorstrom, director of the West Indies Project for The Peregrine Fund, an international conservation organization. “These birds have been shot and forced out of their native habitat for decades, but I am confident that assisted dispersal, combined with our awareness and education campaigns, can save this species from extinction.”
Once found throughout the Dominican Republic and Haiti – Now just 300 birds left
Historically, the Ridgway’s Hawk was found throughout the Dominican Republic and Haiti. After researching and monitoring the species for a decade, The Peregrine Fund found that only about 300 individual birds remained, leaving them vulnerable to catastrophic events such as fire, hurricane, or disease. All the birds were confined within the poorly enforced borders of Los Haitises National Park in eastern Dominican Republic.
Earlier this year, biologists first noticed courtship behaviour between two Ridgway’s Hawks near a release site on private land owned by Grupo PuntaCana and Cap Cana. Biologists dubbed the birds the “Valentine’s Day pair,” but Thorstrom said the female switched partners and later paired up with a different male.
“That was good news to us because we were able to see three birds that we had individually released in years past, including one that we assumed had died,” Thorstrom said. The parents of the new chick are a male released in 2011 and a female released in 2012. The other male was released in 2012.
Biologists climbed up to the nest on June 12 to check the health of the chick, which is now about three weeks old. It was treated for bot flies, a parasitic insect that can be fatal to young chicks, but was otherwise in good shape, Thorstrom said.
The project receives support from the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, which has been extremely helpful in monitoring and safeguarding the birds, Thorstrom said.
“The guards at Cap Cana were the first to report that the female, which disappeared for a couple of days early on, had returned to the nest site, to the great relief of our field crew,” Thorstrom said. “The Cap Cana and Grupo PuntaCana folks continue to keep watch for us and are as excited about the chick as we are.”
More information about The Peregrine Fund’s Ridgway’s Hawk Conservation Project is here.
The Ridgway’s Hawk is one of the most critically endangered raptors in the world, with only 250-300 individuals remaining.
This hawk often builds its nest right on top of an active nest of the Palm Chat, the national bird of Dominican Republic. The hawks add larger twigs on top of the existing Palm Chat nest, without causing any harm to the smaller birds nesting below. It’s like a two-story building for birds!
The Ridgway’s Hawk is the only diurnal raptor found exclusively in the Dominican Republic.