Falcons saved after big hail storm

2019-03-12 15:56
Rina Pretorius, deemed a citizen scientist by Free Me, helps with the ringing of the falcons as well as determin-ing the sex of each falcon.

Rina Pretorius, deemed a citizen scientist by Free Me, helps with the ringing of the falcons as well as determin-ing the sex of each falcon.

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In what is thought to be South Africa’s biggest single species rescue, Howick FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre took in well over 1 000 Amur falcons that had been injured in a massive hail storm in Mooi River on Saturday.

The Amur falcon breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks to Southern Africa.

FreeMe’s Tammy Caine said on Monday that Amur falcons are communal roosters and migrate en masse. “They are one of the few birds of prey that are quite sociable,” she said.

“On Saturday night, a hail storm in Mooi River hit their roosting area and killed around 700 birds.

“Security guards at a shop near the roost spotted them and called the Mooi River SPCA, who then called Ben Hoffman from the Raptor Centre, who then called us.

“From there it was just this huge co-ordination of effort. People from the SPCA, the security company and members of the public started bringing the birds in at around 10 pm on Saturday.

“In total, we have 1 066 birds that survived. Some we are still treating and we will release those that are well enough to be released.”

Caine said they worked through the night, had two hours’ sleep and went back to FreeMe to carry on working with the falcons.

Most of the falcons were released on Monday morning.

The falcons were taken out of their roosting pen one by one, ringed, sexed, fed and then released.

“The rings mean we can track them and if someone in Russia picks up the bird they will see it was ringed in South Africa and vice versa,” she said.

Mooi River farmer Graham Armstrong, who is a member of the local farming association, said farmers were not too badly hit by the storm. The town was harder hit than the farming areas.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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