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New Raptor Research

There will be some additional raptor research going on over the next 2 weeks at Pinnacles. I will be joining Dr. Douglas Bell, a professor at Sacramento State University with extensive experience in prairie falcon handling, in conducting single nest entries into 3 prairie falcon nests at Pinnacles this year. At each nest, we will briefly handle the nestlings, give them color bands, and take blood samples, then place them back in their respective nests. The blood samples will be used for genetics testing to help us determine how insular and interrelated our prairie falcon population is at Pinnacles, and the color bands will help us to specifically identify individuals during monitoring periods. This information has the potential to give us a much more thorough understanding of movements, pair and site fidelity, and immigration into our population, and will allow us to adjust our management strategies accordingly.


I want to stress that this research is not in reaction to any recent climbing issues at the park... Far from it. The local climbing community has been exceptional in their involvement in ensuring the continuing success of the prairie falcon population at Pinnacles. We're just trying to get a better sense of how much in-flow of "new blood" we get into the PINN prairie falcon population. Our guess is that these birds have a small genetic pool, which would make them more sensitive to disturbance or disruption. This research should give us a clearer sense of how insular our falcon population really is.

The nest entries will be timed to ensure that the researchers (Doug and me) and the falcon nestlings are safe throughout the process, and that the nestlings are handled briefly and efficiently to minimize disturbance at nest sites. We may be entering at least 1 nest site in a climbing advisory area in view of visitors. In this case, we will have roving biologists and/or interpretation rangers on trail to answer questions and provide educational opportunities for visitors in regards to the nest entry research.

Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Gavin Emmons, Raptor Biologist
Pinnacles National Monument
5000 Highway 146
Paicines, CA 95043
(831) 389-4486 x276

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