This past spring I had the wonderful opportunity to work on a project monitoring Peregrine Falcon nests in the city of Portland, through the Audubon Society of Portland.
Tonight I went to a planning meeting to start planning for next season’s monitoring.
Peregrines were listed on the Endangered Species list in 1973. Populations nationwide drastically decreased due to the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s through 1960s. The DDT ended up in the peregrine bloodstream, and caused them to lay eggs with thin eggshells. The eggs were unable to survive to hatching. In the 70s there were no Peregrines nesting east of the Mississippi River, and only a handful in the Western United States.
Since Peregrines were put on the Endangered Species List, there have been national programs to help increase the populations. One of the efforts was programs to monitor and protect Peregrine nest sites.
Monitoring nests is important. It provides data on where bird pairs are, if they try to nest, and if their nests are successful. It provides awareness of what’s going on at a site to know if intervention is needed in risky situations. If nests are successful, date tracks how many young were hatched. Young are banded and so can be tracked in the future wherever they may end up, as they establish their own territory as adults.
This past year was a pretty unsuccessful season. Not many nest sites produced nests. This data is important, because while one bad year is nothing to worry about, seeing trends over time of declining or struggling populations would be noticeable.
The monitoring (as well as other programs such as captive breeding programs) have led to increased populations. Peregrines were removed from the Federal Endangered Species List in 1999. They were removed from the Oregon Endangered Species List in 2007. Today there are over 150 nest sites in the State of Oregon. About 6% of the State’s Peregrine population is in Portland. Many of them nest on the many bridges crossing the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Hearing about a success story such as this warms my heart.
DDT was banned in in 1972. Despite being banned about 40 years ago, DDT still shows up in Peregrine eggshells today so can continue to be a problem. Other factors can also always be problems for potential nesters, such as industry, construction, noise, and other disruptions.
Intense monitoring of nest sites in Portland continues. That is how I got involved last spring. The State of Oregon monitors annually. But the Feds are only required to monitor every three years. 2012 will be a Federal monitoring year. That is the reason for the planning meeting tonight. Next year’s monitoring will be a big deal.
You can read a few articles about Portland Peregrine activity through local news channel blogs here and here. Some more general information on Peregrines can be found here on a website that monitors a nest in Connecticut. Fun to check out! They have a camera on the nest. (Of course there is nothing going on at the nest site until nesting season next Spring.)
Peregrines are fascinating and beautiful birds. Their bold coloring is outstanding, with dark black on the face, large round eyes, bright yellow at the base of their beak and bright yellow feet. Beautiful striping on the chest and underbelly. They are fierce looking. They are the fastest animal on earth and can fly up to 200 miles per hour. Yet they are also graceful. I’ve watched them circle in flight during courtship displays. They mate for life and often return to the same nest site year after year if it was successful.
I love birds. They are beautiful creatures and a pleasure to observe. But part of my passion for birds includes conservation of wildlife and the environment they require. Without conservation efforts, species might not be around for future generations to enjoy. It takes active particiation. I try to do what I can, when I can. I am looking forward to next season.