Threatened & Endangered Wildlife – Species Spotlight – Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey
The fastest animal on the planet, peregrine falcons, can reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour. They became endangered in New Jersey, and across the world, due to the use of harmful pesticides such as DDT.
Peregrine Falcons, Falco peregrinus, dive faster than any other bird of prey in the world, reaching speeds of over 200 miles per hour. Though they are the world’s most widespread raptor and one of the most widely found bird species, Peregrine Falcons became endangered in many locations due to the use of harmful pesticides, especially DDT.
When DDT use became widespread in the 1950’s, it slowly entered the food chain and affected the raptors when they ate other animals that had consumed the toxin. DDT caused the adult falcons to lay thin eggs that cracked underneath them during incubation, or caused the young chicks to die early. By 1964, these birds of prey were essentially gone east of theMississippi River. The Peregrine Falcon was federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife began a restoration program in 1975 to bring back the Peregrine Falcon population. Hacking, or placing captive bred birds in boxes meant to mimic a natural nest site, began statewide. Young chicks were bred and raised in captivity, then gradually released along the coast from hacking towers built across the state. This process continued until 1980, with a total of 55 young birds released.
Zoom+ The male peregrine falcon that nests atop 101 Hudson St. in Jersey City. © Kathy Clark, ENSP
In 1980, the first wild nesting occurred at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Brigantine, Atlantic County. In New Jersey, the Peregrine’s recovery continues to grow at a slow but steady pace. Today, there are 26 known nesting pairs in habitats throughout the state. Though their reproduction remains strong, biologists are concerned for the Peregrine’s long-term recovery. Pesticides, PCBs, and heavy metals continue to threaten their population.
Peregrine Falcons usually nest in mountain ranges, river valleys, or along coastlines, but they now nest increasingly in cities and urban areas. Though New Jersey is one of the most densely populated states, the falcons have found suitable habitat with plenty of ledges to nest on and abundant prey close by.
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