There’s a new guard at the statehouse in Des Moines — a falcon. A peregrine falcon has established a nest on the northeast corner of the building. Lowell Washburn is a master falconer. “They’ll fly as far south as Argentina sometimes…but once they have a territory like the pair here on the capitol, they don’t like to leave the house unlocked and they’ll stay around as long as they can because they don’t know who’s going to show up when they’re gone and take over their territory,” Washburn says. Washburn says peregrine falcons released in Iowa have shown up all over the continent. One female raised in Iowa is now nesting on the capitol building in Winnipeg, Canada. Pat Schlarbaum, a wildlife expert for the Department of Natural Resources, placed a two- by three-foot wooden box containing a layer of pea gravel on the northeast ledge of the capitol to help the falcon mate.Schlarbaum says what’s unusual is that the female peregrine at the state capitol is attracting the same male that produced 27 offspring with a female that nests atop a downtown insurance building. The Des Moines River serves as an important boundary. “Peregrines are so territorial, they will not tolerate any other peregrines but any other raptors,” Schlarbaum says. “There’s incidents of the peregrines driving bald eagles away.” The male in the pair of falcons guarding the statehouse is the same male was released in Cedar Rapids in 1990 and he’s reaching his “golden era” according to Schlarbaum. The dense population of peregrine falcons in Iowa was wiped out by the chemical D-D-T in the 1960s but state efforts to re-introduce the bird to the state are succeeding.
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