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Recovery of Peregrine Falcon: A true success story

Peregrine Falcon by Phillip Hardy
Peregrine Falcon by Phillip Hardy

In our October 2016 issue, Josh Engel, a research assistant at the Field Museum in Chicago, writes about the Chicago Peregrine Program. Thanks to programs like that, as well as the Peregrine Fund and federal and state Fish and Wildlife Services, as of 1999, the Peregrine Falcon is no longer considered an endangered species. We consider that a cause for celebration.

The recovery of the American Peregrine Falcon is one of the Endangered Species Act’s most dramatic success stories.

The falcon’s decline began in the 1940s, was most pronounced during the 1950s, and continued through the 1960s into the early 1970s. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, by the time biologists realized the magnitude of the collapse, the American population was only about 12 percent of what it had been prior to the introduction of modern pesticides.

By 1970, the year the Peregrine Fund was founded at Cornell University and the falcon was first placed on the Endangered Species List, the midwestern and eastern populations were gone, and populations in the west had declined by as much as 90 percent below historical levels.

Since then, DDT was banned (in Wisconsin first, then in Canada and the U.S.), and thanks to extraordinary efforts by federal and state Fish and Wildlife Services, the Peregrine Fund, the Midwestern Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project, the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, and dedicated individuals, more than 6,000 captive-bred falcons were released in North America. Many took to nesting in cities.

The species was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species effective August 25, 1999.


Read about the historic 1965 conference in Madison, Wisconsin, on DDT’s effects on the Peregrine Falcon.

Five Peregrine nest sites in the Windy City.

Study: How promiscuous are the Peregrine Falcons that inhabit our cities?

See photos of Peregrine Falcon.



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