Endangered Species Act Success Story:
Peregrine Falcon(Falco peregrinus)
(by Craig Koppie & US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Official Status: Delisted from endangered status (North Dakota). Delisted species have no legal protective status under the Endangered Species Act, but populations are monitored for a minimum of five years after delisting. The peregrine will continue to be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Listed: 35 Federal Register 8495; June 2, 1970, Delisted: 64 Federal Register 46541-558, August 25, 1999.
Historical Status: The peregrine falcon was historically found on all continents, except Antarctica. A rapid decline occurred in the 1950's and 1960's, due to egg-shell thinning caused by accumulation of pesticides, especially DDT. DDT was banned in the United States in 1973. Most of the historic nesting records in North Dakota are from the western half of the State and the Turtle Mountains area. Peregrine falcons have not nested in North Dakota since a pair nested southwest of Medora in 1954.
Present Status: Reports for 1999 suggest that at least 1,650 peregrine breeding pairs exist in the U.S. and Canada. In North Dakota, transient birds are occasionally reported. No recent nesting has been documented.
Habitat: Peregrine falcons will use almost any habitat type that provides hunting opportunities. For nesting purposes, peregrine falcons prefer habitats with cliffs. Peregrine falcons have been known to nest and hunt in cities with tall buildings. During the summer of 1990, a pair of peregrine falcons inhabited the downtown area of Fargo for over a month.
Life History: Sexual maturity occurs at 3 years of age. Peregrine falcons usually nest in depressions on the edge of cliffs. These sites are known as aeries. Some aeries in Europe have been occupied for more than 300 years. Peregrine falcons may use nests built by eagles, hawks, or other birds. Peregrine falcons have also nested on tall buildings. A clutch of 3 to 4 eggs is laid in April. Incubation lasts about 33 days, with both adults partaking in incubating and feeding the young. Young birds can fly in 35 to 42 days. Prey of peregrine falcons consist of pigeons, ducks, blackbirds, and other birds. Peregrine falcons swoop down on their prey and strike it with their talons. Peregrine falcons may be the fastest animals in the world, reaching speeds up to 200 miles per hour in a dive.
Aid to Identification: Peregrine falcons are the size of a crow. They have a dark blue to slate gray back, white throat, black facial markings, and spotted or barred belly. They have long, pointed wings and rapid wingbeats. Peregrine falcons can be identified from prairie falcons and merlins by their larger size and more distinct facial markings.
Recommendations: Report injured birds to a wildlife agency. There are several raptor rehabilitation centers that can care for injured birds. Report any suspected nests to a wildlife agency. Do not disturb an active nest.
Comments: The ban on DDT makes recovery of the peregrine falcon possible. Protections provided by the Endangered Species Act and partnership efforts between the Fish and Wildlife Service and State wildlife agencies, universities, private bird groups, and falcon enthusiasts accelerated recovery through captive breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, and protection of nest sites during the breeding season.
References: American Peregrine Falcon Recovery Plan (Rocky Mountain Southwest Populations), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1984. Endangered Species Bulletin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, July/August 1999.