The Taita falcon for me is one of nature’s sparkling diamonds. I first came across the existence of this beautiful little falcon when I was about thirteen and I had just discovered the not long published book Falcons of the World by Prof Tom Cade. As any typical teenage kid interested in something, I poured over this book for long hours. It never left my side for days-weeks. Ron Digby’s paintings made it all the more involving and I lost myself in it dreaming of seeing, painting and of course flying some of the wonderful falcons contained in it's pages. However one above all others captured my interest more than any. The Taita or Teita as it is sometimes referred to. I was already by then, in love with all things Peregrine and to now see this miniature brightly coloured version of it's larger relative just about topped everything. I’ve always had a thing about smaller races of animals that occur in different parts of the world. Someone as vertically challenged as me kind of empathizes with them I guess! I was soon on a bit of a quest trying to find out more and more about this little falcon. I soon found many other publications which talked of its beauty and conversely its rarity! It seems that all of the past artists that have been interested in raptors and particularly falcons have at sometime or other painted its precise chiseled little form. George Lodge and David Reid Henry in particular have done some beautiful pieces of Taita Falcons. David Reid Henry’s illustration of them for me takes some beating, Featured in Birds of Prey of the World by Brown and Amadon. It wasn’t long before I was doing my best to immortalize this wonderful little falcon with my own hand. In 1997 I painted Zambezi Fall in which depicted a Taita stooping on Swifts deep in the gorge of the Victoria Falls . I purposely gave the lower portion of the painting a dark foreboding feel to emphasize the critical nature of the Taita’s population. This has since become one of my most successful limited editions which you can see on my Website www.andrewellispaintings.com .I later painted the portrait above which can be seen on the next cover of the IAF ( international association of falconry) newsletter with a more lighter positive mood to it showing a bird completely at ease and happy with its surroundings.
The Taita’s current situation is still critical and where there have been some success stories there is now some questions as to how in particular the birds from Zimbabwe are fairing. I had the good fortune to stay with Tim Wagner an extremely good Falconer, breeder and host from South Africa when I visited the country back in 2001. Tim was the first guy to discover the Taita breeding in South Africa in the Eighties. The particular pairs he discovered are now well known and occupy the same sites after many years. There have since been more sites discovered and the Taita in South Africa at least seems to be making some sort of comeback.
Captive breeding with these Falcons is still a little problematical it seems. The Peregrine Fund took some with the view to producing a viable captive population for release programs for the future but this seems to have fragmented a little and the birds seem to have limited breeding success in captivity. However some Falconers in South Africa do seem now to be producing young. There was a workshop held last year at the Pan African Ornithological Congress in Cape Town, concerning the conservation status of the Taita falcon. Although I have no details of the outcome of this workshop Let’s hope that we can soon be in a position to help safeguard the existence of the enigmatic little falcon
A successful outcome to a captive pair in Zimbabwe in 08.