Peregrine Falcon Conservation
(1) - (4) © Nordens Ark
To breed and reintroduce peregrine falcons to supplement stocks in Sweden
With an estimated wild population of about 1,000 pairs, the peregrine falcon (Falco p. peregrinus) was a fairly common bird of prey in Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century. A decline could be observed already in the 1930s, and 40 years later only 10 to 15 pairs remained in the whole country. Due to mainly heavy metals and PCB, the population continued to decline and in 1976, not a single bird hatched in the southern parts of Sweden.
From an initiative of the Swedish Society for the Conservation of Nature (SNF), "Project Peregrine Falcon" was established in 1972 with artificially hatched eggs collected from wild nests. Gradually an ex situ population of peregrine falcons was established and the first successful reproduction took place in 1979. Three years later, in 1982, the first ex situ bred falcons were released in the country.
As a joint effort by SNF and the Ornithological Society of Gothenburg, a breeding station was opened north of Gothenburg in 1987. From 1974 to 1999, a total of 1,130 eggs were produced, 72% of which were fertile. Although 279 falcons were released in 1982–1997, significant signs of recovery could not be observed until the 1990s. (In the last decade of the 20th century the releasing efforts were crowned with success: 29 breeding pairs settled in south-west Sweden.) As many of the breeding cages at the Bird Station were in poor condition it was decided, in 1999, to transfer the breeding activities to Nordens Ark at the Åby fjord where a new facility with 11 separate outside enclosures, incubation rooms, laboratories, an office and a kitchen were built in 1999–2000. Since then, Nordens Ark has been breeding the species and, in addition, rearing falcons from eggs collected from the wild. The eggs are artificially incubated, and the hatchlings are hand-reared before they are either returned to wild nests or continue to be raised by the breeding birds at Nordens Ark.
From 2000 to 2012 no less than 179 young peregrines were released to the wild, mainly in the counties of Dalarna, Närke and Västmanland. The population is now slowly growing, in 2000 there were only two breeding pairs in the region but in 2012 there were at least 24 breeding pairs. The total estimated number of breeding pairs in 2012 was estimated to be 329–359.
The project has thus demonstrated the possibilities to restore a weak or fragmented wild population through ex situ breeding. The breeding programme is estimated to cover some additional years until the two main subpopulations have been successfully combined.
The breeding and restocking project is part of the Swedish Action Plan for the conservation of the species, which also includes monitoring and ring marking of the wild population.
WAZA Conservation Project 06020 is implemented by Nordens Ark, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Nordens Ark's part of the project is funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Hasselblad Foundation and Fondation Segré.
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(1) - (4) © Nordens Ark