The peregrine falcons are back on their breeding territories, and they demand attention. Move over, you hawks and eagles. Sure, endless hours of American productivity have been lost to watching the antics of the Davenport, Iowa bald eagles and the red-tailed hawks of New York, but who’s the leanest, meanest, speediest bird of prey of them all?
You’ll never hear anybody claiming that Mr. Bald Eagle dived off the side of a building at 200 miles an hour and caught a fast-flying mourning dove on a dime. He’s happy to pick up a fat, lumbering duck or maybe even a flopping fish. But the peregrine falcon is the bird predator par excellence, with an ability to hunt down flying prey while evading canyon — or skyscraper — walls without breaking a sweat.
The cosmopolitan peregrine falcon is also a citizen of the world, appearing on every continent except Antarctica. And, yes, I do include the so-called eighth continent of Madagascar. The bird gets around.
It’s humbling to realize that, at a very low moment in North America’s history, we almost lost the peregrine falcon. In the 1950s through the 1970s, the bird became endangered, vanishing entirely from the eastern half of the United States because of a pesticide called DDT which had the unpleasant side effect of thinning its eggshells. If a bird can’t sit on its eggs without breaking them, then guess what. The species can’t reproduce. Fortunately, the ban on DDT allowed the birds to rebound and become one of conservation’s most remarkable recovery stories.
In 1999, they were removed from the United States Endangered Species list, and they continue to thrive to this day, as you can see for yourself on any of a number of the nation’s peregrine falcon cams.
I’ll list two cams that I’ve already checked to see that the pairs have eggs already in the nest. But I bet you could find even more.
At the Woodman of the World site in Omaha, Nebraska, you can see a peregrine falcon cam that is now celebrating its 25th anniversary — which surely makes it one of the oldest bird of prey cams of any kind. The rooftop of the Woodman Tower was chosen as the site for the peregrine falcon reintroduction effort in 1988 because it was then the tallest building in Omaha.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources peregrine falcon cams also have live streaming, but for those of you who have slower connections, they offer the option of viewing a series of photos that refresh every 15 seconds.
[flying peregrine falcon photo courtesy Kevin Cole via Wikipedia Commons and flickr]