Peregrine Falcons, known for their aerial acrobatics, are the fastest flying birds in the world; they can dive and catch prey in midair at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. The male, who prepares the nest for roosting, also courts its mate with elaborate aerial displays around the nesting site. These falcons breed in the same territory each year. An average clutch of four eggs is laid in early spring, hatching about a month later. Peregrines have been known to live up to 20 years.
Our low-light camera is perched unobtrusively to provide a perspective of the nest—called a scrape because the falcon does not actually build a nest, but rather digs a depression in the gravel found on a high ledge, usually a cliff. These birds have adapted to human development by taking advantage of tall man-made structures such as skyscrapers, water towers, or bridges for nesting spots.
The peregrine falcon is the poster child for raptor conservation. Peregrine populations nationwide plummeted due to environmental contaminants like DDT. Through the banning of DDT and reintroduction efforts, these birds are again breeding throughout the New England region. Peregrines helped us detect a crisis that had serious implications on both wildlife and human health. This is one reason why it is important to monitor raptor populations. Because they sit at the top of the food web, raptors serve as key indicators that can be used to detect environmental and ecological imbalance.
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