FreeMe KZN recently gave this update on one of the Amur falcons it rescued. The falcon, after being saved from a violent hailstorm in South Africa, was once again rescued after flying to India. This time by the ring on its leg placed there by Rina Pretorius.
Amur Falcon survives Second life-threatening incident in 70 days and +- 9500km: “Survivor Queen, she wears my ring, D92688. Amur Falcon, adult female that survived the Mooi River hailstorm (2019-03-09,712 birds were killed), ringed and released on 2019-03-12 in Howick, Freeme. She successfully crossed the ocean and was captured in India. According to the Forest Department, the bird was trapped by two boys from a nearby jungle. The parents, after seeing the ring had delivered the bird to the forest officials. The Bird was kept in their custody for two days and later was released in the Poba Reserve forest, 4 KM from Jonai town (2019-05-19). Photographer, Jonai Janakantha.
THE amazing Amur Falcon migrates between South Africa and the Amur river region of Russia/China where they breed. They are one of the furthest flying species doing an astonishing round trip in excess of 22 000km each year. They spend time here between November and April each year. Part of their migration takes place over the ocean between Ethiopia and India, which can be a full five-day crossing on the wing. They time this to coincide with a Dragonfly (Global Gliders) migration which allows them to feed on the wing during the epic crossing.
Wade Whitehead, CEO of FreeMe KZN, tells of this mass rescue when the birds’ roosts were hit by hailstorms:
“The first incident in Mooi River was on Saturday, March 9, when a hailstorm passed over their roosting site. A security guard alerted the local SPCA after seeing hundreds of birds grounded and/or dead.
More than 800 birds were killed. FreeMe KZN were immediately alerted and we waited at our clinic while members of the public together with the Mooi River SPCA brought over 1000 injured Amur Falcons in.
We had huge support from members of the public, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Honorary Officers, Mooi River SPCA, Raptor Rescue, local vets and volunteers. Working around the clock, we treated the birds for shock, concussions, broken wings and dehydration. We decided to release birds that had recovered by Monday, as these falcons are notoriously difficult to feed in captivity over extended periods of time, as well as the fact that they needed to migrate any day. We released 1 090 falcons that week.
The second incident hailstorm hit Newcastle on Thursday evening on March 21, also over their roosting site. More than 2 000 birds were killed and 1 000 rescued. The Newcastle SPCA, local rehabilitator Sylva Francis, and again the public, Raptor Rescue and volunteers helped us hugely that night. We worked throughout the day releasing 813 birds that were fit enough and had recovered overnight.
Those that were healthy and strong enough (250 of them), after being checked by trained rehabilitators and vets, were ringed using registered SAFRING ringers (identity ring with code placed on one leg) before being released. A total of 43 injured Amur Falcons remain in our care and will be released in November. All the dead birds were given to the Durban Natural History Museum.