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Environment & Energy

Pennsylvania Peregrine Falcon Continues to Make a Come-Back

It’s been another successful nesting season for the peregrine falcon in Pennsylvania. The pesticide DDT wiped out the falcon population east of the Rocky Mountains in the 1940s and 50s. But the species has been making a slow come-back ever since a repopulation effort began in the 80s. Dr. Arthur McMorris, the peregrine falcon coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission explained that a successful nesting season means the population is growing.

“From one pair in 1986, we’re up to 32 pairs this year. More than half of the nesting pairs did succeed. And buy succeed I mean they raised young to the age where they could take their first flight and fly on their own.”

Those pairs have produced 62 young falcons this year, and McMorris said there was more than 1.5 young fledged per nesting pair, the number necessary to maintain stability in the peregrine population. Despite the growth, he said there are challenges facing the population. Historically, the species makes  its home nesting along cliffs. But McMorris said of the 32 nesting pairs, only four live on cliffs and the other 28 are on man-made structures.

“Since there’s so few at cliffs, then that’s a lot of habitat where peregrine falcons should be part of an ecosystem and they’re just not there. And another reason that it’s a concern is that peregrine falcons on man-made structures are exposed to a lot of threats that those at natural sites are not exposed to.”

In Pittsburgh one of those nesting pairs is a long-time fixture on the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.

More information on the falcons can be found at