This past February, Tom Cade, a legendary conservationist, lifelong falconer, and founder of the Peregrine Fund, died. Early in my life, Tom was an inspiration, and later, a friend. I had the great pleasure of interviewing him in November 2015 when he visited Ithaca, New York, for a few days. He was 87 at the time. Our conversation was wide-ranging. He reminisced about his childhood and long fascination with birds of prey; his early Peregrine Falcon studies in Alaska in the 1950s; the historic Peregrine Falcon conference that he and biologists from around the world attended at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, when the extent of the peregrine’s devastating decline first became known; and the massive Peregrine Falcon captive-breeding and reintroduction effort he launched at Cornell University. I covered some of this information in the remembrance of Tom that I wrote for Audubon, but after revisitng my interview with him for that piece, I thought it was worth sharing with the world—not just because it’s important to document Tom’s life and work, but also because it gives a glimpse into the lighthearted and jovial man that many of us knew so well.
Before listening, though, a quick note: At one point in the interview, Tom mentions that non-indigenous peregrine subspecies were released in the eastern United States. For those who need a quick review, three Peregrine subspecies have been formally recognized in North America: the Arctic or “Tundra” Peregrine (Falco peregrinus tundrius)—the smaller, paler race that nests across northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland and winters in Latin America; the Peale’s Falcon (Falco peregrinus pealei)—the largest, darkest, and most heavily marked race that nests along the coast and islands of the Pacific Northwest from Washington State up through British Columbia and Alaska; and the Americanor “Anatum” Peregrine (Falco peregrinus anatum)—which is midway between the two in terms of size, darkness, and markings and nests in the interior and coasts of North America. Most raptor biologists will tell you there was also a fourth race of North American peregrine that was never formally described—the “Eastern Anatum,” which was larger than the western race and nested in the vast area from the Mississippi River to the East Coast. By 1965, this subspecies had already become extinct, a victim of DDT contamination. Because there was no remnant indigenous peregrine population remaining in the eastern United States, Tom released a variety of peregrine subspecies there, including “Western Anatums,” Peale’s Falcons, “Tundra” Peregrines, and a small number of non-North American peregrines. Only native “Anatums” were released in other parts of North America.
Tim Gallagher is a writer based in Freeville, New York, and the author of Falcon Fever, The Grail Bird, Imperial Dreams, and three other books.