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Monitoring Plan Released for American Peregrine Falcon


December 3, 2003

Tom MacKenzie, USFWS Southeast Region 404-679-7291, 678-296-6400 (cell)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued its monitoring plan for the American peregrine falcon in the continental United States. The bird was removed from the Federal list of threatened and endangered species in 1999, and the monitoring plan is designed to make sure that American peregrine falcons continue to thrive without the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

“This is the first nationwide monitoring plan for a recovered, delisted species,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. “We’ve relied on our state and private partners for monitoring data and we’ll continue to work closely with them to put this formal plan to work.”

The monitoring plan was developed in compliance with The Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Act requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor species recovered and removed from the endangered species list “ cooperation with States...” and “...for not less than five years.” In order to fulfill this requirement, the Service developed this plan in cooperation with State resource agencies, representatives from each Fish and Wildlife Service Region, the Divisions of Migratory Birds, Endangered Species, and other cooperators. Should monitoring reveal that American peregrine falcon is likely to become endangered, the species could be listed again under the Act.

A Notice of Availability of the post-delisting monitoring plan was published in today’s Federal Register and can be downloaded at or A copy of the Federal Register Notice can be found at

The Service released a draft monitoring plan for the American peregrine falcon in 2001, which was accompanied by public comment periods in July 2001 and September 2001. It received additional review by states and cooperators in December 2002 and January 2003.

The final monitoring plan designates six geographical survey regions in 40 states where American peregrine falcons breed, and it calls for nests to be monitored five times at three year intervals. Monitoring began this year and will end in 2015. The plan calls for counting the number of American peregrine falcons returning to nesting sites, determining whether they nest successfully, and counting the number of young produced.

In level flight, the normal speed for peregrine falcons is about 40 to 55 miles per hour. In a steep dive they can attain speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour as they attack their prey. The peregrine falcon was nearly extirpated in most of North America after World War II. The cause of the bird’s decline was accumulation of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT in bird’s tissues, which resulted eggshell thinning and breakage during incubation. The pesticide DDT was banned in Canada in 1970 and in the United States in 1972. As a result of the ban, eggshell thinning subsided. When peregrines were reintroduced across the nation, their populations rebounded to the point where they no longer required Endangered Species Act protection. Although pesticides such as DDT are still used in Latin American countries where peregrines migrate in winter, their use is gradually being curtailed through international efforts.

In 1970, the Service listed the peregrine falcon as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, the precursor of the Endangered Species Act. At the time, the American peregrine falcon population in the eastern United States had completely disappeared and populations in the West had declined to as much as 90 percent below historic levels. By 1975, the population reached an all-time low of 324 nesting pairs in North America. Today, there are more than 2,000 nesting pairs in the United States, more than 400 pairs in Canada, and an estimated 170 pairs in Mexico. The American peregrine falcon continues to be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits the taking, killing, possession, transportation and importation of migratory birds, their eggs, parts and nests except when specifically authorized by the Department of the Interior.

Recovery efforts for the American peregrine falcon continue to be regarded as unprecedented in the history of endangered species conservation. They involved nearly every state, dozens of conservation groups, falconers, and a highly successful captive-breeding program that released more than 6,000 birds into the wild. Other species that have been delisted due to recovery include the Arctic peregrine falcon, the Aleutian Canada goose, the southeastern population of brown pelican, the American alligator, the Rydberg milkvetch, Robbins’ cinquefoil, and the gray whale.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

NOTE TO EDITORS: For life history information and photos of peregrine falcons go to


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