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Peregrine Falcon Pair Returns To Pinnacles National Monument

2005 marks the 19th year of raptor monitoring at Pinnacles National Monument, and a successful breeding season is well underway for sensitive nesting species including prairie falcons and golden eagles. This year also marked the first time in over 48 years that a peregrine falcon pair has established a nest in the park.

Historically, peregrine falcons were last observed nesting at Pinnacles National Monument in 1957 in the High Peaks and just outside of the park (at Drywall Slide) in 1962. Peregrine falcons were listed as federally endangered in 1970, due largely to population declines caused by pesticide poisoning (mainly DDT and DDE) and resulting egg-shell thinning. Since then, peregrine falcons have slowly increased in numbers, thanks to the banning of DDT use in the U.S. in 1973, and careful captive breeding programs throughout the country. Peregrine falcons were not observed at Pinnacles at all from the 1960s until the mid-1980s, with one or two peregrine falcons a year observed migrating through the park from the 1980s to 1990s. From 1989 to 1991, cross-fostering programs were enacted at Pinnacles, with peregrine falcon young placed into prairie falcon nests to augment peregrine populations. Last year a pair was seen in the park, but no nesting activity occurred.

This year the peregrine falcon pair was first observed in early January, with mating behavior observed throughout February and March. On April 3rd, during observations of the peregrines, three eggs were confirmed in the nest.

The return of a nesting pair of peregrine falcons to Pinnacles National Monument, and the success of sensitive breeding raptors including prairie falcons and golden eagles, reinforces the importance of the raptor advisory areas in place from January to July, and the part that all visitors play in ensuring the continuing raptor diversity at the park. We thank the climbers and hikers for their patience and support of our efforts to protect our spectacular birds of prey at Pinnacles. "This demonstrates the effectiveness of the advisory program, which would not be possible without everyone's cooperation. Now more people will have an opportunity to see these spectacular birds in their own back yard," stated Chief of Research and Resource Management, Tom Leatherman.

For more information regarding peregrine falcon activity at Pinnacles National Monument, or the park's raptor monitoring program, please call the office of Research and Resource Management at 831-389-4485 extension 223. General park information can be obtained by visiting the Park Website

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