Bird watchers gathered at the state capitol today to celebrate the growing number of peregrine falcons in the state. Peregrines can reach speeds of 200 miles an hour, making it the fastest animal in the world.
But Pat Schlarbaum , a wildlife technician for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says use of the pesticide D.D.T. helped wipe out the local population.
"If you can only imagine the peregrine falcon more than just scarce, it was completely wiped out from the Missouri River to the east coast," he says. "The last known nesting was about 1965; probably the last successful nesting might have been 1956." Iowa joined other states in trying to protect nesting sites in order to reintroduce the birds to the state.
"From the time that we started in 1989 when there were just a handful, seven or eight nesting pairs north of us in Minnesota, this year we documented 13 nesting pairs," he says. "Probably as many as 24 young." The long-winged birds which are roughly the size of crows have recently been taken off the state’s endangered species list.
Instead, the birds are classified as a "special concern" for state officials. "Birds like peregrines, you know, in a way they kind of sell themselves. We’re all enamored and can fully appreciate their flying prowess," Schlarbaum says. "There’s a lot of other endangered species that maybe don’t quite get this sort of airplay."
Peregrines are typically cliff-dwellers, but the Iowa D.N.R. has established several peregrine falcon nests in urban settings, including the Alliant Energy generating station near Ottumwa, the U.S. Bank in Cedar Rapids, MidAmerican’s headquarters in Davenport and the statehouse in Des Moines.