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The History of SCPBRG

Dr. Roush and Brian Walton

The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group got its start in the early 1970s when a local Santa Cruz orthopedic veterinarian named Jim Roush heard of the captive breeding of endangered peregrine falcons by Dr. Tom Cade at Cornell University. He decided that a similar effort based on the west coast would be in order and he contacted Professor of Natural History Ken Norris at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
They struggled to get things going, and after a short time found Brian Walton to lead the fund raising effort and coordinate biologists and the breeding of falcons. Beginning in 1975 the Predatory Bird Research Group conducted breeding, conservation and management of peregrine falcons (keep all peregrine falcon links), bald eagles and related species like golden eagles, condors, elf owls, aplomado falcons, prairie falcons, and Harris’ hawks.
In the 1970s the Predatory Bird Research Group spent a lot of effort attempting to locate the last remaining peregrine falcon nests in the state. Then late in the 1970s through the mid 1990s a large-scale release effort of captive bred and captive hatched peregrines was conducted in an effort to increase the rate of recovery and range expansion of peregrine falcons. It worked very well and eventually the peregrine was removed from the federal endangered species list. In 2006 SCPBRG conducted a statewide census of peregrines in California and documented more than 200 territories.
The effort to study and manage peregrines was large. People from many walks of life helped with field biology, construction of facilities, captive rearing and incubation, public education, government planning of recovery, and many other facets of the program. Without donations of time and money, without agency personnel dedicated to helping the species, without volunteers and a poorly paid staff, the program could not have occurred and the assistance to species would have been reduced.
During the 1980s SCPBRG staff flew around in helicopters and drove to remote locations searching for falcons. At the same time other biologists took captive bred young to release sites and conducted field management. Still other folks were entrenched in the laboratory hatching eggs from the captive group of falcons housed in the Lower Quarry at University of California, Santa Cruz. 

SCPBRG's captive breeding facility in the lower quarry at UCSCIn later years the breeding of falcons could not add as much to wild population productivity because the wild population increased in size. The facility in the lower quarry was torn down and replaced by a student-housing complex. The Predatory Bird Research Group is now located at the UC Santa Cruz Long Marine Laboratory campus where we are affiliated with the Seymour Discovery Center and administered by the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences.