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Game Commission Reports Successful Peregrine Falcon Nesting Season

Pennsylvania’s peregrine falcons had another successful nesting season in 2012, according to Dr. F. Arthur McMorris, Game Commission peregrine falcon program coordinator.

“We confirmed 32 pairs of falcons nesting across the Commonwealth, and 22 of them bred successfully, raising 62 young falcons,” Dr. McMorris said. “Also, we banded 42 of the young falcons in an ongoing effort to assist the recovery of the population. These numbers compare well with those of last year, when 32 pairs raised 68 offspring.”

McMorris said that peregrines nested in 15 counties across Pennsylvania, with particular concentrations in the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre areas.

“This year’s young falcons are now becoming independent of their parents,” McMorris said. “In fact, many have left their natal sites and begun wandering in search of suitable wintering areas and, ultimately, for sites where they may begin nesting themselves when they reach the age of two or three years.”

Peregrine falcons mate for life, but will readily accept a new mate if one of them perishes. They nest at the same site faithfully year after year; and in Pennsylvania, they leave their nesting territory only briefly, if at all, during the winter. Therefore, falcon enthusiasts and the general public can enjoy these magnificent birds year-round.

“The success of this year’s peregrine falcon nesting season is one more step in the recovery of the species from the brink of extinction,” McMorris said. “Peregrine falcons were extirpated from North America east of the Rocky Mountains by the use of DDT and related chemicals during the 1940s and 1950s. Subsequent to the banning of DDT in 1972, wildlife biologists in the eastern United States and Canada raised thousands of peregrines in captivity and released them into the wild; and as a result, the population is now recovering.”

In 1986, the first nesting pair of peregrine falcons in Pennsylvania in 25 years was found in the Philadelphia area. Since then, the number has gradually increased to this year’s total of 32 pairs. Peregrine falcons were removed from the federal Endangered Species list in 1999, but they remain on the Endangered Species list in Pennsylvania and most other eastern states.

For more information, visit the Game Commission’s Peregrine Falcon webpage or the PA Falcon Cam at the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg.


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