Discovering nature: the peregrine falcons of Missouri

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A fast wanderer is back in the skies of Missouri. The peregrine falcon nearly became extinct in the mid-1900s due to pesticide poisoning. Historically, peregrine falcons nested in small numbers on cliffs along the Mississippi, Missouri, and Gasconade rivers. In the late 1800s, only a few couples remained in the state.

With a chemicals ban in place, biologists and falconers banded together to bring the hawks back to places where they had disappeared. Falconers raised birds and hatched eggs, and biologists raised chicks until they could live on their own.

The word “Peregrine” means “wanderer” or “pilgrim”. Although they have one of the largest bird migrations in North America, their great return instincts lead them back to prime nesting sites that can be used for many generations.

Reintroduction projects have been relatively successful and populations of peregrine falcons have been established, with birds using tall buildings as substitutes for nesting sites on cliffs, and more returning to former nesting sites on suitable cliffs. Today, the world’s most common and fastest bird of prey can be seen around major cities and waterways.

Peregrine falcons have been popular with falconers since ancient times for their ability to hunt prey. They hunt from high in the sky and engage in deep aerial dives at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour to snatch their prey. Common parties can include pigeons, shorebirds, and ducks. They often nest on the skyscrapers of large cities.

Today, people are delighted with their intensely fast flight and their ability to maneuver. As this species nears extinction, humans have stepped up to save it, showing our appreciation for peregrine falcons.

Learn more about the Missouri Peregrine Falcons at MissouriConservation.org.


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