Saturday, February 18, 2017

Peregrine Falcon

The peregrine falcon is a spectacular flyer, the fastest flyer in the avian world, indeed, the fastest animal in the world, capable of reaching speeds of over 200 mph when diving on prey. It's a widespread species (the name peregrine means "wanderer") exceeded only by the common rock pigeon in terms of global distribution. By 1970, however, the species was almost extirpated in the lower 48 states due to frequent nesting failure. The birds were producing eggs with excessively thin shells which broke easily when the mother tried to incubate. The thinning was evidently due to high amounts of the pesticide DDT in the falcons' diet.

DDT was banned in the 1970s and efforts were made to increase breeding success by providing artificial nesting sites for the birds and reintroducing breeding birds into territories which had been devoid of falcons for decades. Over the last forty years they've made a gradual comeback and can now be found nesting on almost every bridge on every major river in the eastern United States. They also nest in urban areas on tall buildings, feeding mostly on medium-sized birds like pigeons and gulls which are abundant in cities and along large rivers.

peregrine falcon

An office building in Harrisburg, PA has hosted a nesting pair for several years and four "falcon cams" have been set up on the site (called an aerie) enabling viewers to watch the progress of the falcons, which mate for life, at close range as they raise their brood.

The birds are presently preparing to lay their eggs and are active around the nest during the day. The Harrisburg cam can be accessed here and if you click on the link during daylight you may well find yourself eyeball to eyeball with a peregrine. Enjoy.