Fifty years ago, Peregrine falcons were nearly extinct in Pennsylvania due mainly to the negative impact of DDT on their reproduction. Now, after recent efforts to protect and support them, their numbers have increased (though they are still listed as endangered). Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe remarked, “The peregrine falcon’s ongoing comeback and expanding nesting range have sparked considerable excitement throughout Pennsylvania, from our quietest rural areas to our largest cities.” There are 29 nesting sites for the rare raptors in 14 counties. Most of the nests are not on river bluffs, which is their historic location. When peregrines have recovered to the point where they naturally inhabit river bluffs again, it may be time to take them off the endangered species list.
In the late 1980s three nests were found on bridges near Philadelphia and Chester. These may have been the only ones in Pennsylvania. To give an indication of the positive trend, 68 peregrine falcons were born in the state last year. The recovery was due to a nationwide effort by The Peregrine Fund and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in conjunction with local state conservation officials. One of those officials, Dr. Art McMorris said, “The data show they have firmly reestablished their population and their recruitment is phenomenal. But we still are sorely lacking in cliff recolonization.”
One possible reason the falcons aren’t returning to cliffs for nesting, may be because of great horned owls attacking their offspring. Conservation workers placed ID bands on 54 young falcons this year to help track them, so they can protect and support the overall population. Allegheny County had the most with 13.
Peregrine falcons are one of the fastest animals on Earth. They are believed to be able to reach a speed of 200 mph.