Monday, September 10, 2012

Peregrine Falcon

On our travels, we seldom stop in inner cities, as they are not likely to offer much for birding. Astoria, Oregon, proved to be an exception. The city built a five-mile riverwalk along the Columbia River. Alongside the walk is a trolly line, which tired hikers can ride back to their hotels. The riverwalk skirts a rather rundown, but still active, industrial dock area, with large buildings, ruined docks, abandoned piers and rusted machinery (Family.go.com). Despite this rather dismal description, our walk yielded close views of a variety of waterfowl. Imagine our surprise when a Peregrine Falcon circled and landed on an overhead telephone wire. The photo above was taken just as the falcon was about to perch on the wire.

This raptor is "One of the most widely distributed of warm-blooded terrestrial vertebrates, the Peregrine Falcon occurs from the tundra to the Tropics, from wetlands to deserts, from maritime islands to continental forests, and from featureless plains to mountain crags—it is absent as a breeder only from the Amazon Basin, the Sahara Desert, most of the steppes of central and eastern Asia, and Antarctica" (White et al. 2002). Yet, by 1970, the Peregrine Falcon no longer bred across most of eastern North America and parts of Europe. Numbers were greatly reduced in many other areas. DDT and similar chemicals seem to be the cause of this calamity. Peregrines are recovering where these pollutants are now banned. As most Minnesotans are aware, active programs of introducing breeding falcons to cities, whose large buildings substitute for natural cliffs, also contribute to this falcon's comeback. Cities like Astoria and Minneapolis/St. Paul are now part of this magnificent falcon's habitat.

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